Death Penalty Duel: Voters to Decide between Props 62, 66

Moments before Richard Allen Davis was sentenced to death in a San Jose courtroom for the kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas, the young girl’s father addressed the court. “He broke the contract; for that he must die,” Marc Klaas said on Aug. 5, 1996. “Mr. Davis, when you get to where you’re going, say hello to Hitler, say hello to Dahmer and say hello to Bundy. Good riddance, and the sooner you get there the better we all are.” Davis entered the Klaas family’s life on Oct. 1, 1993, when … [Read more...]

A Speedier Death: The Battle Over California’s Death Penalty

At the stroke of 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, February 20, 2006, Michael Morales was scheduled to die. After 23 years on California's death row, following his conviction and subsequent death sentence for the 1981 rape and murder of 17-year-old Terri Winchell, Morales' stay in San Quentin State Prison would end like this: Wearing brand new prison denims and an incontinence pad, he would walk into a lime-green room with a person-shaped gurney in it. He would climb onto the gurney and lie down. After … [Read more...]

Another Poster Child For California’s Dysfunctional Death Penalty

alifornia's death penalty system is so dysfunctional that even after 35 years, issues regarding the reliability of his conviction and the fairness of his death sentence have not been resolved.  And now they never will be because Bernard Hamilton has died of "natural causes" at the age of 64. What madness. In 1981, Bernard Hamilton was found guilty of the murder of a woman named Eleanore Buchanan and sentenced to death.  Although the facts of the crime are quite gruesome, the trial itself … [Read more...]

The Death Penalty Endgame

How does the death penalty in America end? For decades that has been an abstract question. Now there may be an answer in the case of Shonda Walter, a 36-year-old black woman on Pennsylvania’s death row. On Friday, the Supreme Court met to discuss whether to hear a petition from Ms. Walter, who is asking the justices to rule that in all cases, including hers, the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments. Ever since 1976, when the court allowed … [Read more...]

California’s Death Penalty Should Expire in 2016

California cannot consider itself a progressive state as long as it shares the values of countries such as North Korea, Pakistan, Libya, Iran and Saudi Arabia in its choice of punishment: the death penalty. No other Western nation has a death penalty. Nineteen states more enlightened than California have abolished it. It's time to join them. A referendum on capital punishment is in the works for 2016, with supporters and detractors gathering signatures for competing propositions on the … [Read more...]

A Death Sentence by Any Other Name Is Still a Death Sentence

Apparently, America is losing its stomach for state-imposed death—if prompted by the injection of lethal drugs into the body of the condemned. However, if death is the result of a long, lonely, pointless life behind bars, America is still on board. Many opposed to the death penalty are celebrating what appears to be the beginning of the end of capital punishment. However, there is another kind of death penalty thriving in America: Life in prison without the possibility of parole— a more subtle, … [Read more...]

Faster Executions or None at All: California Voters May Get to Choose

If there’s one thing supporters and opponents of the death penalty can agree on, it’s this: The system is broken. Since California reinstated capital punishment in 1977, 117 death row inmates have died. But only 15 of them have been executed. The vast majority have died of natural causes or suicide. When he was chief justice of the California Supreme Court, Ronald George caused a stir when he said “the leading cause of death on death row in California is old age.” The system, he said, is … [Read more...]

State by State, the Death Penalty Is Losing Ground

When the Connecticut Legislature abolished the state's death penalty three years ago, it explicitly left in place the death sentences of those who committed their crimes before the repeal. Abolition for future crimes, said the Legislature, not for past crimes. But last week, in a landmark 4-3 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court found that the death penalty violates the state's constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and that abolition must therefore extend to everyone. The 11 … [Read more...]

California’s Death Penalty Dying of Old Age

uring the last four decades, no California political issue has burned more intensely than capital punishment, but it may have ended with a whimper, rather than with a bang, last week. Federal Judge Cormac Carney ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional because it’s rarely used – thanks largely to ceaseless legal challenges from its opponents, one should note. Another irony is that Jerry Brown – a lifelong foe of capital punishment – was governor when it dominated the Capitol in the … [Read more...]