CA former governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis (Photo by Xavier Higgs for Sentinel)
Three former governors, two Republicans and one Democrat, have put aside their differences to launch a statewide petition to reform California’s death penalty process. According to George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, and Gray Davis the proposed ballot measure could speed up the process and require the California court system to finish death penalty appeals in about five years. Many of these condemned inmates will remain on death row for decades, only to die of natural causes while still waiting for their cases to be resolved.
Gov. Pete Wilson said, “old age should not be the leading cause of death on death row.” We owe it to the victims to spare them the pain. This reform is long overdue.”
Doing a joint press conference the three governors stood with former Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley, San Bernardino County DA Mike Ramos as well as family members of victims. Kermit Alexander, former NFL player, whose mother, sister, and two nephews, were murdered in 1984 says this proposed initiative is an opportunity to change the system.
“We’ve been waiting more than 30 years for justice. I am terribly disappointed in our system of justice. I have not slept well since my mother was murdered.”
Meanwhile California has the largest death row in the nation, currently housing over 740 inmates. The state has spent over $4 billion dollars since 1978 to execute 13 people. Mike Ramos, San Bernardino County District Attorney, says “it’s a fiscal issue and we will save millions of dollars if this initiative passes.”
Former Democratic Gov. Davis agrees, “this initiative will save the state money and bring reform to the system.”
Not present at the press conference was Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey. But spokesperson Jean Guccione, says LADA Lacey will “unveil her position at the right time and in the right place.”
The ballot measure would come as other states are either abandoning the death penalty or considering alternatives.
Ironically, earlier this month Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee announced a moratorium on executions while he is in office. He’s not convinced in death penalty cases equal justice is being served.
In a report entitled, “Safe California,” Judge Arthur L. Alarcón, Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Paula M. Mitchell, Adjunct Professor of Law, Loyola Law School Los Angeles, described the California’s capital punishment system as dysfunctional.
While reinstating the death penalty in 1978, California taxpayers have spent nearly $4 billion to carry out 13 executions.
To qualify for the ballot, the measure's supporters must gather more than 800,000 signatures, and validated by June 26. Ana Zamora, Spokesperson for the ACLU, said those who support the proposed initiative are “deeply misguided.” She adds it is flawed and “will result in further delays in the process.”
“It will cost tens of millions of dollars more to California tax-payers. More importantly it could increase the risk of executing an innocent person. The only solution to the death penalty is to replace it with life in-prison without parole.”
Peter Laarman, former executive director Progressive Christians Uniting, says there is a hunger to kill people in this country, so let’s expedite the process.
In response to Gov. Wilson remarks about old age not being the leading cause of death for death row inmates, Laarman says, “why not?” He asserts, “it may satisfy some sort of psychological need, but it’s not ultimate justice.”