The death penalty is reserved for the most heinous of killers.
The crimes committed by death row inmates are so brutal and depraved that a jury of their peers rendered the ultimate sentence. Death sentences are rare – only 10 to 20 cases a year across the state – but they need to remain available for the worst of the worst.
The death penalty in California is broken, but with simple reforms, it can work again. We urge voters to vote “no” on Proposition 62, which would repeal capital punishment.
We also urge voters to support Proposition 66, which would mend the death penalty and ultimately provide victims’ families with a sense of justice.
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Proposition 66 was written by experienced legal experts who know what’s needed to fix the system. It was drafted to ensure due process and to balance the rights of all involved – defendants, victims and their families.
The measure would expand the pool of qualified lawyers to deal with these cases so that inmates will not wait years simply to have an appellate attorney appointed. It would limit unnecessary and repetitive delays in state court to five years; trial courts that handled them in the first place and know them best would handle the initial appeals.
The death penalty is important to grieving families left behind by vicious killers.
More than 35 years ago, John Riggins and his girlfriend Sabrina Gonsalves, both freshmen at UC Davis, were abducted and brutally murdered. The case went unsolved for 30 years until DNA evidence came to light, resulting in the conviction and death sentence for Richard Hirschfield in 2013.
While Hirschfield has been on death row for three years, it would have made no difference if he had been caught immediately and sentenced to death 30 years ago. He would be in the same place – on death row.
For families of victims, that’s not justice.
California’s death row is filled with inmates who have murdered more than 1,000 victims, including 226 children and 43 police officers. They are killers like Charles Ng, who kidnapped, tortured and killed upward of 25 people.
All these victims had their whole lives ahead of them.
John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves had much they wanted to accomplish. She was studying to be a physical therapist, and he was studying to be a doctor. They, like so many others, are no longer able to fulfill their dreams, yet their killers sit on death row, costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year in housing and health care.
We urge Californians to vote “no” on Proposition 62 and “yes” on Proposition 66 to ensure the worst of the worst receive the sentence they deserve.
Anne Marie Schubert is Sacramento County district attorney and can be contacted at SchubertA@sacda.org. Richard Riggins is the father of John Riggins and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. They wrote this viewpoint on behalf of the No on Proposition 62/Yes on Proposition 66 campaign.