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Local opinion columnists

California’s death row sham

By From page A7 | February 21, 2013

As a community, we cheered the arrest of Anthony L. Jones for the alleged kidnapping, rape and murder of 13-year-old Genelle Conway-Allen. But I wonder if Jones is convicted of the crime, does justice begin or will it be delayed?

Last week, the Solano County District Attorney’s Office decided to seek the death penalty in the CHP Officer James Capoot murder case. The special circumstances in the Genelle Conway-Allen case make it likely it, too, will be a capital case. There’s no question to me that anyone who would sexually assault and murder a 13-year-old child deserves death. But given the state of California’s death penalty, would it really happen?

There are approximately 729 inmates on California’s death row and we haven’t had an execution in seven years due to a judge-imposed moratorium. What’s worse is California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told reporters last December that it could take three more years before executions resume in the state.

Of those 729 inmates, 14 have exhausted their appeals yet continue to languish on death row because our three-drug method of execution has been called into question. Chances are we will have to switch to a one-drug method and have it signed off on by the courts before anyone could be put to death.

Of the 13 men we have executed since 1978, the average time they spent on death row before execution is 18 years. So let’s say executions resume in 2015. Is it justice if Anthony L. Jones, if convicted, is executed in 2033? And even that is extraordinarily optimistic, given there are hundreds of other cases in the pipeline.

We do know that the No. 1 cause of death on California’s death row is natural causes, followed by suicide.

We know that such high-profile murderers like Richard Allen Davis, who was sentenced to death in the 1993 killing of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, still sits in a cell in San Quentin with no execution date in sight.

The most executions any state has conducted in a single year has been the 40 Texas executed in 2000. Even if California were to execute that many in a year, which is highly unlikely, it would take 18 years to execute all of the inmates currently on death row. The reality is it’s hard to say when a person placed on death row today will be executed in California. Or if.

Legal watchers say that the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, 52, who has been on death row for nearly 24 years, is only halfway through his appeals and that he may not be executed until he’s in his 70s.

That’s sick. Give them life without parole and dump them in general population.

Californians voted 53-47 last November to retain capital punishment in the state. I voted to end it not because I’m opposed to the death penalty, but I’m opposed to the time and resource-draining sham that is California’s death row. It’s cruel to victims to tell them their loved one’s killer will receive death and then have them sit on death row for decades.

The killers of Officer Capoot and little Genelle Conway-Allen deserve death. But my fear is that if the perpetrators end up on California’s death row, they’ll die of natural causes. That’s not justice. Peace.

Kelvin Wade is a writer/author. Reach him at [email protected]

Kelvin Wade

Kelvin Wade


Discussion | 10 comments

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  • G-ManFebruary 20, 2013 - 9:53 pm

    Seriously..what is WRONG with you clowns?

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  • PatriotFebruary 21, 2013 - 5:35 am

    Kevin, have you ever thought of running for office...I love your columns you put in the paper! You are not afraid to speak the truth..Keep it up..

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  • lauraFebruary 21, 2013 - 12:50 pm

    First off both victims were white and both murders are black of course they going to try to get the death penalty there monsters and deserve to have a single gun shot wound to the back of the head people on death row have it good t.v. fan mail medical dental all that stuff cruel punishment my ass who cares put a bullet in there heads and the state will save so much money the state of CA is restarted giving 157 years to life? Why so u could have access to benefits and who's paying for that the tax payers we spend more money on retards that should be shot and killed themselves then we do on our children and there schooling Texas isn't in debt for a reason they kill. Those that need to be killed not have them chilling in a cell for a stupid amount of time

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  • G-ManFebruary 21, 2013 - 1:12 pm

    I like this Laura..your last name wouldn't be Himmler by any chance would it?...Bullets are expensive and thanks to Shoe Shine Soetoro in short supply..you got a big ocean..drownem!

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  • CaliJohnFebruary 21, 2013 - 3:47 pm

    That's 39 MILLION a Year to House , Feed, and provide Medical plus guard these people and hire Lawyers to fight appeals.They are people who cannot be set free. Maybe we should look at harder enforcment instead oif guncontrol..

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  • rlw895February 22, 2013 - 10:20 pm

    Ah, once again into the breach. The death penalty debate seeming without end. Those who want retribution vs. the Constitution. Irresistible force against immovable object. To me it’s not a matter of justice or cruel or unusual punishment, but uncertainty. How many innocent people are we willing to kill to have an expedient system of execution? My answer is “none,” so I want to jettison the death penalty in favor of life without parole. That is, unless we can find a standard of proof for capital cases that is better than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That’s just not good enough for to put someone to death.

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  • G-ManFebruary 23, 2013 - 12:18 am

    I think you're being unreasonableabout this beyond a reasonable doubt thing..but then again you're in la la land..the only problem w/death sentences is they're not carried out in a timely fashion..aresome mistakes going to be made?..sure..can't make an omelet w/o breaking a few eggs...and cruel and unusual punishment?..Ever have a colonoscopy faux lawyer man?..You go to sleep..not like some of these poor victims who suffer so greatly...life w/o parole??..who you kidding Matlock?.

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  • rlw895February 24, 2013 - 2:39 am

    Breaking eggs, the state killing an innocent person. What's the difference? I'm convinced. Thanks.

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  • G-ManFebruary 24, 2013 - 3:12 am

    My pleasure..now go and sin no more...

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  • rlw895February 24, 2013 - 1:31 pm

    Sarcasm is lost on you.

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