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 firstname.lastname@example.org.