September 16, 2012

Your letters on capital punishment

"At the end of the day, the pivotal issue of the California death penalty debate is not whether it is right or necessary for a state to kill convicted felons."

Death penalty is a waste of money

Re "Time to end the fiction of California's death penalty" and "Bee's views on executions have evolved" (Editorials and Forum, Sept. 9): Your concise review of California's death penalty history and your historic position inform your readers about the waste of money and resources pursuing an ineffective penalty.

Thank you.

– Alice Smith, Palo Alto

Here's what the issue boils down to

Re "Time to end the fiction of California's death penalty" (Editorials, Sept. 9): At the end of the day, the pivotal issue of the California death penalty debate is not whether it is right or necessary for a state to kill convicted felons. The pivotal issues are the ones your editorial has explained:

Can we and should we continue to fund the state's broken, dysfunctional, hugely expensive and unfixable government program of capital punishment, when we have life without parole as an alternative?

Is it right to continue to turn a blind eye to the fact innocent people are wrongfully convicted and sent to their deaths?

Is it fair to trap victims' family members in decades of appeals with the inflated expectation that an execution will happen, when it rarely does?

Whether one is for or against capital punishment, these are the issues to be acknowledged and understood.

– Nancy Oliveira, San Francisco

Is it cheaper to feed a killer for life?

This editorial shows the type of judgment that is helping make California the most backward of the 50 states.

Why would we take away the death penalty? Prisons have become more crowded, and prices to feed and house these prisoners have put a huge burden on the state and the taxpayers. You people actually think it's cheaper to have these people sit in prison for the rest of their lives, which could be 70-plus years? This is idiotic.

The death penalty needs to stay in place, and I think we need to use it much more often. We need to show these thugs in our state that if you harm others, there are major repercussions, including death. The fear of death is the best option we have to deter these people, but we can't be afraid to use it when necessary.

– Josh Bowers, Sacramento

Death penalty system can't be fixed

Thank you for your courage to change your opinion about the death penalty and for your timely in-depth series on the death penalty.

A "yes" vote on Proposition 34 makes sense for all of the reasons you cited – save the state (i.e. we taxpayers) lots of money, never execute an innocent person and keep perpetrators of terrible crimes behind bars for life.

Let's stop wasting money on a death penalty system that can't be fixed.

– Catherine de Neergaard, Kensington

Bee's position is irresponsible

I have always wondered who are these bleeding hearts who seem to consistently and almost single-handedly screw up this society for the majority of us. Some stupid technicality, a loophole, one judge, a lawyer, a politician. Now, it's The Bee's editorial board. How incredibly irresponsible.

I keep hearing about how expensive the death penalty is. How about somebody giving the public accurate accounting of the cost of housing all of these societal misfits? Have any of you bleeding hearts ever been the victim of a major crime or had someone close to you taken from you? Let's have these perpetrators move next door to you, or maybe if you support letting a convicted murderer live, you should be forced to serve as their guardian and keeper.

Whatever happened to the majority rules?

I guarantee you, you lost a lot of readers with that article but more importantly, respect.

– Dan Yarbrough, Cameron Park

Innocent people have been executed

Thank you for your consideration of reality and willingness to change your position based on that reality. Too many people think we can change the high cost of administering the death penalty by emulating other states; unfortunately, as you mention, their speedier and less careful process has resulted in execution of innocent people. That is unthinkable.

– Beth Weinberger, Oakland

Execute on the day after conviction

I am a 50-year-old lifelong Sacramento resident. I believe if you are convicted of murder with eyewitnesses or caught on film or a repeat drunken driver who kills, you should be killed the day after conviction, not sent to prison, fed and educated for years at the state's expense.

I believe if the death penalty was administered this way, then potential murderers would see that we mean business, and they will not kill. Now if you are convicted, you go to prison, free room, food, a job. There are no consequences.

– Bob Marshall, Citrus Heights

Prop. 34 also funds law enforcement

Congratulations on your courageous shift in editorial perspective on the death penalty in California. Your editorial points out the high cost of the death penalty system. We all know the dire circumstances of the current California budget.

Rarely mentioned is the portion of Proposition 34 that directs $100 million over the first three years to law enforcement throughout California to solve murder and rape cases. Approximately 50 percent of all rape and murder cases in California are unsolved due, partially, to lack of funds. Many DNA samples from rapes are unprocessed and rapists remain free.

Proposition 34 would provide funds to put more criminals in jail, perhaps for life without possibility of parole. California would be safer. The $130 million per year additional savings could make California a better place to live.

– Barbara S. Dilts, Kensington

Say no to revenge

I am glad that my favorite newspaper in the state is closely examining the criminal justice system that includes the death penalty – a penalty that has not been effective since its reinstatement in 1977.

Keep in mind there are criminals who might prefer dying for their actions.

Deterrence also may be ineffective since there is no public display of the penalty – nor should there be any public display of a government killing its own citizens.

We do not want our children to pay for a broken system where more and more money goes into an ineffective criminal justice system instead of a working educational system.

Plus we don't want our children to learn that revenge is the only way to heal from broken hearts.

– Victor Monjaras, Newcastle

Capital punishment violates human rights

Capital punishment is like slavery: Nobody has the right to impose it.

The death penalty is a clear violation of human rights: right to equality, right to life, and freedom from torture.

It is a black hole in the law: a land with unclear borders changing in different times and countries.

Capital punishment means that those without the capital get the punishment.

It is revenge.

It is not a deterrent and makes worse the evil it pretends to cure; it brutalizes and makes society more violent.

The death penalty is a human sacrifice, a ritualistic slaughter carried out in cold blood by the state.

Sooner or later everybody will realize that capital punishment is an immoral, indecent, illegal, expensive, stupid, cruel, dangerous, racist, classist, arbitrary, capricious, inconsistent, not working violation of human rights.

– Claudio Giusti, Forli, Italy,

co-founder, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Puhleeeze! A study by the ACLU?

Re "Death penalty is applied unevenly statewide" (Editorials, Sept. 11): Please quit. A study and report by the ACLU! Just what did you expect the end result to be?

I just wish all would quit injecting "reports, studies, opinions" etc. into this matter. The voters have repeatedly told the politicians, the ACLU, the liberal press and everyone else that they want the death penalty to be enforced.

Forget the population grids, gang concentrations, murder rates. All those statistics can be manipulated to fit anyone's desired results. Bottom line: Let the punishment fit the crime and honor the voters' mandate.

– Terry Buckingham, Sacramento

Death in prison is worse than execution

A one-minute relatively painless injection in which a person basically falls asleep before dying is the easy way out.

There is, however, a more serious, tough death penalty. Death by natural causes, in prison, after a lifetime of stewing in one's own mental/emotional cesspool of guilt, regret, self-loathing and hopelessness.

Natural death in relative isolation with no hope of parole is the only death penalty worthy of the most heinous crimes.

– Larry Mayer, Esparto

'Civilized' nations don't execute

Criminal sentences should have nothing to do with wealth or the political makeup of counties.

I changed my views years ago with the thought of an innocent person possibly getting a death sentence.

Also, look what information we lost by executing Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. Years in prison might have given us more answers. His death sentence was nothing more than revenge. Did it heal a broken heart? No.

We are the only "civilized" nation to still have such a barbaric, backward way of thinking.

– Liz Forsman, Sacramento

Many factors can skew county rankings

From where I sit, the statement in the table headed "Unequal Justice" is misleading. While it is certainly true that Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties hand down the most death sentences in absolute terms, the rate per million data suggest that the death penalty is most likely to be applied in Riverside and Tulare counties.

It may also be important to consider other factors that could be confounding the data, such as the proportion of cases that are plea-bargained rather than taken to trial. Further considerations could be the proportion of cases in which first-degree murder is alleged or the death penalty is actually sought.

Absent those data, however, it would seem that my chance of getting the death penalty is higher in Tulare County than in either Los Angeles or Orange county. Not that any of this will induce me to move to the Southland.

– Jennifer D. Franz, Sacramento

Many families of victims back Prop. 34

The death penalty is far costlier than life without parole, yet most death row inmates receive the same punishment as those sentenced to life; only 13 have been executed since 1967.

The need to prevent false convictions means that attempts to speed up the process will waste more money and could compromise the fairness of our legal system.

In the current case of Richard Hirschfield, accused of capital murder in the Dec. 20, 1980, "sweetheart" slayings, why make a false promise to the victims' families that if sentenced to death he will be executed, when he will likely die awaiting execution? Why give Hirschfield a sentence that will entitle him to costly and dilatory appeals, forcing victims' families to relive the trauma?

With Proposition 34, savings from ending the death penalty will partly be used to solve unsettled rapes and murders.

Why waste taxpayer dollars on an ineffective system rather than using them to augment law enforcement? Hundreds of victims' family members don't think we should. They support Proposition 34.

– Tessnim Ahmad, Folsom

I was deterred by death penalty

Re "Death penalty deters murders? Evidence doesn't bear that out" (Editorials, Sept. 12): You are correct that California's death penalty is a fiction as it is no longer carried out. However, for many years when folks tried to tell me that it wasn't a deterrent, I reminded them that it certainly deterred me from killing my first alcoholic, compulsive gambler husband many years ago. Now it means nothing.

The criminals continue to have more medical care, rights and privileges than the citizens who support them in prison. I resent the tax money that is wasted on them and the lawyers who benefit from years of saving them.

– Pat Andrews, Loomis

Speed up the death penalty process

Incarcerating California's approximately 3,700 life-without-parole inmates costs about $185 million a year. When adding the figures for processing these inmates through our justice system, we can conservatively estimate an annual expenditure of $250 million.

But if we reform our dysfunctional death penalty appeal process and switch to the one-drug cocktail, the enormous savings could be funneled to preschool and public education in poverty-stricken areas, which in turn would reduce the number of future sociopaths that are unleashed upon California.

Because the sentence of life without parole is a statement that the inmate committed a heinous murder, cannot be rehabilitated and will always be a threat to society, it should be abolished. Instead, victims, their survivors and society deserve the social and economic justice that would result from an expedient death penalty process. I urge my fellow Californians to vote "no" on Proposition 34.

– Paul Warrick, West Sacramento

Killers don't deserve room and board

Never mind if the death penalty does or does not deter murderers. American citizens should not be required to provide a lifetime of food, clothing and shelter for convicted murderers after all legitimate avenues of appeal have been utilized and exhausted.

– Frederic Allen Naglestad, Sacramento

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