Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More Death Penalty Humonetarianism

More bipartisan disgruntlement about the death penalty, fueled by its dysfunctions and discontents: yesterday's Chron featured an op-ed from Republican lawmaker Tom Harman.

In 2008, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice issued a report stating that the death penalty system in California was failing. In California, as of 2008, 30 inmates had been on Death Row for more than 25 years, 119 for more than 20 years and 240 for more than 15 years. Is California doing something wrong? Absolutely.

Delays in obtaining legal counsel, the appeals process, court-ordered moratoriums and other stalling tactics are routine. These delays ultimately place more value on the life of a convicted criminal than on that of the victim. I believe this is unacceptable to the victims, their families and the voters.

The sad truth in California is that killers on Death Row are far more likely to die of natural causes than at the hands of the state. As the commission noted, the interminable delays that have become the hallmark of the system have weakened the death penalty's effect on deterring crime.

Harman is a staunch believer in the death penalty, and so his contribution to the debate is particularly interesting. It is also timely, considering the upcoming public hearing on the lethal injection and the Day of Action on June 30th. Here's Jonathan Simon's take on this. And here's another example of this interesting trend.

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