Sunday, September 16, 2012


KILL THE DEATH PENALTY by Keith Taylor Don't hold your breath but it is possible Californians will finally join several other progressive, freethinking states and repeal one of the dumbest laws in the nation? The local ACLU and a few other outfits have placed a referendum on the November ballot which will not only save us more than $150 million per year, it will allow us to hold up our heads with the dignity of acting rationally. If the referendum flies, we will have done away with the California death penalty -- a no-brainer in a world dominated by religious fervor. The referendum will not turn killers loose, but it will make them spend their lives in prison rather than just sit around death row while waiting interminably to be executed. The measure sounds good even the conservatives could get on board. They talk of saving money and here is their chance. Capital punishment costs billions of dollars over the years, even if it is almost never carried out. That ought to be a enough to get the attention even of a tea partier. Or maybe not . Californians showed their sympathies back in 1977 just as soon as the Supreme court decided strapping a person in a chair and poisining him (sometimes her) wasn't cruel and inhuman after all. The state considered, at least by its own citizens, the most progressive in the country recalled three members of the state Supreme Court in 1986, including the chief justice, Rose Bird, for overturning the decisions of jurors and halting their executions. Ironically the California "supremes" were following the mandate of the Federal Supreme Court which ruled courts could not dismiss jurors who did not believe in the death penalty. But the nuances of the law didn't matter. Our message to the world was pure Tea Party Rhetoric: we don't want no wimps thwarting our right to kill people. If it's any consolation, Texans, especially their governor, look even more irrational. Governor Rick Perry broke George Bush's personal record for killing people and is proceeding apace. Perry had already stated that executions don't bother him a bit. Perhaps he's becoming inured to killing. He holds the modern record for it at 236, and his most loyal followers love him for it. Such is politics in America today. Bill Clinton once left a campaign to hurry home to Arkansas so he could ensure the execution of a fellow with an IQ so low he didn't understand he was sentenced to die. As they marched him off to the execution chamber he saved the dessert from his last meal for later. Our much maligned uber liberal politician took a short cut through civilized behavior on his way to high office. But some see the light. Thirteen men on death row in Illinois were found to be innocent, no thanks to the government which sent them there. No, these guys were exonerated by members of a college journalism class. Then, Governor Ryan, a conservative no less, halted all pending executions. Ryan followed with a push for Illinois to join the states who don't have it as an option. Despite the stark evidence that innocent people can be sentenced to death, his legislature refused to enact a law prohibiting it. Death penalty tells us: "According to a survy of the former and present presidents of the country's top academic criminological societies, 88% of these experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder." I shudder at this frenzy to kill people. My biggest objection is not limited to what it does to those executed. It is what it does to otherwise ordinary citizens. When he was Texas governor, George W. Bush mocked convicted killer Karla Faye Tucker because she pled for mercy. Then he invoked the name of God in allowing the execution to be carried out. Bush and God were a fearsome combination when it came to carrying out the more stringent edicts of the good book. On December 13th 2005, the deposed mayor of San diego got in his licks at Tookie Williams's execution at San Quinton. Roger Hedgecock who had been arguing in favor of the execution, read a parady of The Night Before Chistmas." The goulish parady ended with Tookie squealed like a pig when they gave him the needle. Even killers are people. Their deaths should not be mocked. California should join the seventeen states which have abolished the death penalty. It's time Americans grow up and stop celebrating the things which deamean us. //Keith Taylor is a retired navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at Wrap...

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