Thursday, February 26, 2009

LA Times against the death penalty

I wrote before about how the death sentence in Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel, "might as well be a life sentence." Today the Los Angeles Times editorial page says that a death sentence in California is actually a life sentence three quarters of the time.

Today, a death row inmate is more likely to die of old age than to be put to death by the state. Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 43 have died of natural causes, five more of "other causes," 16 by suicide -- and 14 have been executed, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
And the page publishes a succinct version of the arguments against capital punishment.
...This page has steadfastly opposed the death penalty. We question the morality of state-sponsored killing. We think capital punishment strikes disproportionately at disadvantaged groups, and capriciously at others. We doubt its deterrent effect as well.
The editorial goes on to report the conclusions of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, which found that it costs an extra $63 million per year to house California's death row inmates (that is, $63 million above and beyond housing them as life without parole).
Inefficiency and costliness are obviously only a small part of what's wrong with the death penalty. But as the commission noted, they create cynicism and disrespect for the rule of law, and increase the emotional trauma of victims' families. Let's end this brutal, anachronistic practice.

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