To kill or not to kill, that is the question that could be coming to a voting booth near you. Will you pull the trigger?

The state Assembly's Public Safety Committee approved Berkeley state Senator Loni Hancock's SB 490 last week, setting off a firestorm of criticism from death penalty advocates. The bill would ask voters in the next statewide election to eliminate capital punishment in the name of saving the $184 million a year it costs to maintain death row.

The union representing Los Angeles police isn't happy about the proposal:

On Monday the Los Angeles Police Protective League issued a statement calling the proposal a “galling move” because, it argues, the people who support the bill have been trying to thwart the death penalty for years and have thus been driving up those costs that SB 490 seeks to drive down.

On average, five years pass before appellate counsel is appointed to death row inmates, and at least another five years pass before their first appeal is heard. These delays happen because death penalty opponents in the Legislature refuse to authorize market-rate pay for the attorneys, thereby creating a shortage of appellate lawyers for these cases. The Legislature also refuses to consider having California Appellate Courts hear the appeals, ensuring a lengthy wait before the backlogged California Supreme Court hears the appeal.

The proposal's supporters note that, since 1978, only 13 people of 700 on death row have been killed. The cost to you since then? $4 billion. As it stands, the death penalty in California has been on hold for the last five years judicial approval of a new execution chamber and the processes of putting inmates down.

Sen. Hancock:

Today we're not tough on crime; we're tough on the taxpayer. Every time we spend money on failed policies like the death penalty, we drain money from having more police officers on the street, more job training, more education, more of the things that would truly make for safer communities.

Us? We're not so sure we'd be ready to be so pro-life if someone murdered a loved one. But … we're all for letting the voters decide. It's called democracy.


LA Weekly