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    George Gascon

  • Sandy Friend is the mother of a child whose killer is on California's death row. She resides in Marysville.

Viewpoints: Should we OK Prop. 34 to end executions? No

Published: Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 5E
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 - 9:39 am

Michael Lyons was my 8-year-old angel of a son. He was sweet, loved his family and had a smile that would melt a glacier. When I think of that smile, it eases my heart for only so long because I will grieve over his loss for the rest of my life.

Michael died an unimaginable death. He endured 70 purposeful, nonlethal stab wounds to his little body. He was sodomized viciously. After more than 10 hours of torture, Michael's throat was slit, his body dumped into a river.

Every night I pray that no mother should be forced to experience my lifetime of anguish since Michael was murdered. Though I had to hear the grisly description again of how a vicious repeat offender tortured and murdered my son in court, I was relieved that justice was served when a jury found Michael's killer guilty and sentenced him to death.

While the emotional wounds never heal, there are better days than others.

But my healing has been ripped apart by the prospect that Michael's killer won't see justice if Proposition 34 passes this November, which would repeal California's voter-imposed system of capital punishment.

It is beyond insulting that liberal special interest groups, including the ACLU, believe my son's killer deserves leniency and compassion. Proponents of Proposition 34, including The Bee's editorial board, patronize victims' families by telling us they have empathy for our suffering while hiding behind specious claims to justify giving the most vicious criminals a lifetime of health care and housing, benefits that too many middle-class families cannot afford.

According to the California District Attorneys Association, the death penalty is only given to less than 2 percent of all murderers, and reserved for only the most violent and heinous killers.

There are several precautions that prosecutors must consider before seeking the death penalty. The crime must qualify – it must be a first-degree murder with special circumstances, such as murder during rape, sodomy or other sexual assault; murder of a child during an act of sexual abuse; or murder of a peace officer among other shocking crimes. A district attorney must weigh the facts and circumstances of the crime. The jury must determine if the death penalty is appropriate. The death sentence must be upheld by a trial judge. Finally, the appellate courts and ultimately the state Supreme Court must review the verdict to ensure that it was fair, and the defendant received due process of law.

There are 729 men on death row. These killers are the worst of the worst.

They are cop killers, serial killers and child rape killers: 135 cases involved sexual assault and murder; 126 cases involved torture before murder; 220 victims were children; 44 victims were peace officers. These killers earned the death sentence given to them by juries across this state. The families of these murder victims and citizens of California deserve to have the punishment carried out.

I recognize there are many Californians who morally oppose the death penalty and I respect their beliefs even though we disagree. However, it is hypocritical for those behind Proposition 34 to criticize the costs while at the same time raising concerns about delays caused by the current appeals process. The system is broken because those who want to abolish it have broken it, and they should admit it. When Proposition 34 is defeated, the Legislature must have the courage to uphold the will of the people and seek common-sense reforms that mend – but don't end – the death penalty.

Many states guarantee convicted murderers their due process appeal rights while also guaranteeing law abiding citizens justice. Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Ohio and many other states have implemented the death penalty fairly. Recent decisions have streamlined the federal appeal process, and just weeks ago the California Supreme Court ruled that serial frivolous appeals would now be met with rejection and a fine. California is prepared to use a single drug injection, which has been accepted by the liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

There is a reason every leading public safety group and local government opposes Proposition 34. California's death penalty can work, and there are more than a dozen vicious murderers who have exhausted their appeals and can receive the sentence that they have earned. When you vote on Proposition 34 this November, ask yourself what you would want if it was your child who was brutally raped, tortured and murdered. Please stand up for victims and reserve the death penalty for California's worst killers.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Sandy Friend



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