OpEd: Don’t abolish death penalty, make the system work

In this Oct. 30, 2015 file photo, Marc Klaas, far left at podium, father of Polly Klaas, who was kidnapped and slain in 1993; Scott Jones, Sacramento County sheriff; L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Sheriff Jim McDonnel join other victims' rights advocates, community leaders, and elected officials to announce efforts to place an initiative on the 2016 ballot to streamline the death penalty in California. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

In this Oct. 30, 2015 file photo, Marc Klaas, far left at podium, father of Polly Klaas, who was kidnapped and slain in 1993; Scott Jones, Sacramento County sheriff; L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Sheriff Jim McDonnel join other victims' rights advocates, community leaders, and elected officials to announce efforts to place an initiative on the 2016 ballot to streamline the death penalty in California. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Seven hundred forty-three criminals sit on California’s death row. Prisoners like Randy Kraft who sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered 16 young men between 1972-1983 or Dennis Stanworth, who was convicted of raping and murdering two girls and was sentenced to death in 1966 for the heinous crimes he committed.

California’s Supreme Court set aside Stanworth’s death sentence in 1972 after the California Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment was unconstitutional. So, instead they gave this brutal killer life in prison with the possibility of parole. In 1990, he was paroled and by 2013 he killed again — this time his elderly mother.

And who could forget Richard Allen Davis? A career criminal who was three months out of prison and “rehabilitated” only to end up raping and killing 12-year-old Polly Klaas. Davis has now been sitting on death row for 17 years — at taxpayer’s expense.

Inmates on California’s death row include notorious serial killers, cop killers, child killers and rape/torture murderers. Many of these individuals have been on death row since the 1980s and have used endless appeals, spread out over years and years to delay justice. Families of murder victims should not have to wait decades for justice. Hundreds of killers have sat on death row for more than 20 years forcing taxpayers to fund their meals, clothing, housing and health care. This is unacceptable.

Proposition 62 will abolish the death penalty altogether and instead give killers already on death row, and future killers, a life sentence. This is the wrong tact to take. Prop 62 means these murderers will live the rest of their lives at taxpayers’ expense, long after their victims are gone. Instead, a more prudent move is to reform the death penalty by mending what’s broken. The current system is out of balance, we need to restore the balance between the rights of defendants and the need to provide justice and closure for the families of victims and protect society. Voting no on Prop. 62 and voting Yes on Proposition 66 is the answer. Prop. 66 speeds up the appeals process by eliminating legal and procedural delaying tactics while assuring due process protections for those sentenced to death.

Death penalty opponents like to point out the possibility of persons wrongly convicted of capital offenses and sentenced to death being executed. The fact is there is not a single documented case of this ever taking place in California due to the expertise and painstaking quality of investigation and prosecutorial work that has gone into death penalty cases. Prop. 66 ensures that all appeals are heard within five years and no innocent person is executed. In addition, convicts on death row would lose various special privileges they enjoy and will be required to pay restitution to victims’ families out of their prison work pay.No on Prop. 62 and yes on Prop. 66 is supported by hundreds of district attorneys, sheriffs, law enforcement organizations, elected officials and victims’ right advocates and community leaders. They all joined forces to ensure that the worst of the worst killers receive the strongest sentence to help bring closure to families while saving California taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

California’s death row inmates have murdered more than a thousand victims, including 226 children and 43 police officers; 294 victims were raped and/or tortured. It’s time California reformed our death penalty process so it works.

We urge a no vote on Proposition 62 and yes on Proposition 66.

Michael A. Ramos is San Bernardino County district attorney.

Click here to read the entire article