Prop. 62: Death to the death penalty
Prop 62 gives Californians the chance to kill the death penalty once and for all
On Dec. 13, 2005, the state of California executed a 51 year old man who had been nominated for five Nobel Peace Prizes and one Nobel Prize of Literature. His name was Stanley Williams, and before being convicted of first degree murder, he founded the Los Angeles street gang “The Crips.”
While on death row, he wrote a plethora of anti-gang children’s books and was an advocate for disenfranchised youth. He acknowledged that he had done many horrific things on the streets as a youth, but his post-incarceration work had remarkably positive impacts on the impoverished children of the Los Angeles area.
The execution process dragged on for more than 10 minutes. While the executioners searched for a vein to use for the injection, Williams was able to mutter a final few words while being in extreme discomfort. He struggled to glance up at the observers, and when the lethal cocktail finally took effect, he was pronounced dead.
Even though it was ugly, Williams’ execution was relatively humane compared to the nature of others. In 2014, the state of Oklahoma attempted to lethally inject 38 year old Clayton Lockett. The injection was botched, and one of his veins ruptured. He shook and attempted to move his arms, legs and head, and suffered for 20 minutes before the injections were stopped. Forty minutes after the execution began, he suffered a fatal heart attack.
The eighth amendment states that cruel and unusual punishments shall not be used. Yet both Lockett and Williams’ deaths were drawn out and painful. Isn’t being strapped to a chair, shaking and praying for the injection to work a cruel enough form of punishment?
Proposition 62 is a measure that will ban the death penalty in California effective immediately and give those on death row life sentences without any opportunity for parole. Currently, there are 741 people on California’s Death Row.
Not only is the death penalty morally questionable, but it also is very expensive for taxpayers. While it has been estimated that the actual drugs used in lethal injections cost less than a hundred dollars, cases that seek the death penalty are significantly more expensive than those without. The lengthy appeals process, which is usually tried many times post-conviction, is extremely costly. And furthermore, the state of California has only performed 13 executions since 1978, a mere fraction of the 741 that are on death row today. According to a study done by Judge Arthur Alarcon and Professor Paula Mitchell, California spends 137 million dollars each year solely on costs associated with the death penalty. Over the next 20 years, it has been estimated that California will spend an additional four billion dollars on the death penalty alone.
While the United States has an excellent criminal justice system, there are still many issues that can lead to wrongful convictions: false confessions, law enforcement misconduct, inadequate defense and false testimony can all have life-or-death consequences for potentially innocent defendants.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a project worked on by the University of California, Irvine, University of Michigan and Michigan State University, 166 people have been exonerated for crimes in California. In total, 1905 people have been exonerated across the country for crimes they did not commit.
Imagine if someone was wrongfully convicted and put to death. A single failure from within our justice system, whether it be by accident or purpose, can steal a life away from a family. And even more so, how can we decide who gets the death penalty and who gets life without parole? How can we make the distinction between who gets to live and who gets to die?
With the hundreds of people sitting on death row in California, it is time to kill the death penalty once and for all. Proposition 62 gives voters the opportunity to end a longstanding practice of cruel and unusual punishment in our state, and allocate a large sum of tax dollars towards bettering our communities, improving our educational systems, or improving our justice system in other ways.