Death Penalty May Be Going Away in California: November Ballot Prop 62
October 06, 2016
New Law May Pass Eliminating the Death Penalty in California
While we help our clients defend against homicide cases where the death penalty has been alleged, it will be a welcome relief to us and in particular those individuals for whom the District Attorney currently seeks death as punishment for conviction of those murder charges. Currently, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has a panel of senior prosecutors who, mid-way through a prosecution where death is on the table, vote on whether to seek death should the trial result in a guilty verdict.
Death Penalty Is Not A Fair or Constitutional Process
One of the patently unfair aspects of homicide cases where the death penalty is sought, is the fact that the jury pool is specifically limited to those potential jurors who consider themselves willing and able to pronounce a sentence that includes putting the defendant to death. While some people are simply open-minded about the subject, it is widely agreed that this eliminates the majority of left-leaning or liberal jurors. It is commonly accepted that more politically and socially conservative people who end up dominating such juries are more predisposed to starting a trial with the belief that the defendant is guilty. It goes without saying, a jury pool edited in this way is not a Constitutional Jury.
From a fiscal standpoint, in California, a prosecutor’s decision to seek death is a disaster. Those sentenced to death in California are kept in special custody for an average of 15 years in California at an increased cost of $90,000 a year over the cost to house someone doing life. Add to this number the cost of the appeals process (most of those do not have the resources to hire an attorney and so rely on public defenders or appointed counsel); and the cost to the tax-payer of putting one person to death in California is several million dollars more than simply housing them for life.
Fraught with Errors: Prone to Putting Innocent People to Death
A well peer-reviewed study conducted at X University suggests that upwards of 4% of people are wrongly convicted. That’s one out of every 25 times they get it wrong. The Innocence Project focusses on freeing those who have been wrongfully convicted, where advances in DNA evidence can now demonstrate they were not the killer. The Innocence Project has saved many People from being put to death including Tyrone Jones who was freed in Pennsylvania this week after 40 years behind bars. Most experts agree that the significant numbers of freed individuals in the last 20 years is simply a small fraction of those wrongfully convicted. Other organizations work with those where DNA is not available to exonerate, but instead where false eye-witness testimony resulted in a wrongful conviction. These are even more difficult ships to right, even though study after study demonstrates how eye-witness identification is patently unreliable.
This suggest that we have a legal process that finds a margin of error for killing innocent people or taking their lives away by letting them rot in prison in much the same way that the FDA says a certain number of bugs can be in our food because it would be financially inefficient to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Difficult to Change Such Laws Politically
Such “tough on crime” laws can be extremely difficult to challenge, as politicians fear the loss of political capital. From 3-Strikes, to death penalty, to Megan’s Law, politicians are rue to participate in reform because it can open them up to attacks of being soft on crime. In this collateral attack on sentencing options, repealing the death penalty does not mean defendants convicted of serious murders will get off easy. They will simply be sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity for parole (LWOP). This punishes, protects society and saves money.
Perlman Law Group