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Three Ex-Governors Get Behind Measure to End Death Penalty Delays

Gray Davis, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian sign the petition that may put a pro-death penalty initiative before the California voters in November.

Death Row at San Quentin Prison. Patch file photo.
Death Row at San Quentin Prison. Patch file photo.

Three former governors signed a petition today aimed at putting an initiative before voters in November designed to end lengthy delays in California executions, but a death-penalty opponent called the proposal “deeply flawed.”

Former Govs. Gray Davis, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian were among those attending a Los Angeles news conference to throw their support behind the proposal, which would shorten the length of the appeals process and require death-row inmates to share cells with other inmates -- a move supporters say would save millions of dollars.

“All three governors believe strongly that there should be a death penalty for the most heinous crimes in this state,” Davis said.

There has not been an execution in California since 2006.

“Families wait too long to finally get to that point where somebody's life is going to be taken for the crimes they have committed,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos said.

Former professional football player Kermit Alexander, whose mother, sister and two nephews were killed in a 1984 home-invasion robbery in South Los Angeles, was also among those backing the initiative.

“My family was murdered brutally,” he said, noting that his relatives were killed “in a wrongful death situation because apparently the murderer couldn't read the right address and went to the wrong house.”

“We've been waiting over 30 years for justice,” he said.

Supporters of the initiative must collect more than 800,000 signatures to get the proposal on the ballot.

Matt Cherry, executive director of Death Penalty Focus, said the initiative is misguided.

“This deeply flawed initiative is full of legal and practical problems, and will only increase litigation and costs,” he said. “No matter what anyone might say, California's death penalty has repeatedly proven to be broken beyond repair. Instead of increasing the risk of executing innocent people and adding even more costs, we need to replace the dysfunctional death penalty system with life in prison without the possibility of parole.:

Cherry said support for the death penalty “is at historic lows, and more states are realizing that there are simply too many flaws in the system.”

--City News Service

Shripathi Kamath February 13, 2014 at 05:51 PM
That is the Christian thing to do. Jesus would have wanted an expedited crucifixion too.
Yeparoo February 13, 2014 at 06:23 PM
What, no Arnold? Just a guess, but any new laws to expedite carrying out death sentences will just add a new layer of legalities to wade through. Why don't we scrap the death penalty and subcontract these prisoners to Malaysia.
John B. Greet February 13, 2014 at 07:17 PM
The best thing California could do in this regard would be to end capital punishment altogether, commute all death sentences to Life without Parole (LWOP) and then put every such prisoner to work...hard work...for the rest of his or her natural life.
Chip Long February 13, 2014 at 07:29 PM
I strongly support the death penalty. We need to carry out executions in a timely manner, and not allow these criminals to sit on death two for years, and often decades. Countries that have the death penalty and fewer deadly crimes.
Shawn Gordon February 13, 2014 at 09:14 PM
You could do away with a lot of corruption in government if both the person offering and receiving were to be executed, quickly. You'd only have to sacrifice a few people and then they'd stop. Imagine Ray Nagine knowing, that he would DIE, quickly, if caught. He wouldn't have accepted all those bribes, and the people offering them, if they knew they would die if caught, probably wouldn't offer either.
Shripathi Kamath February 13, 2014 at 09:56 PM
Indeed, especially when said deadly crime is murder: http://bit.ly/1bttHmf. It is even more evident in foreign countries, like Saudi Arabia. They executed a few murderers and BAM, just like that, no one murders in Saudi Arabia any more!
John B. Greet February 14, 2014 at 08:08 AM
Shri, your point (delivered through the URL) is a powerful one and one which few DP proponents care to recognize. While the primary purpose of incarceration is punishment, the secondary purpose must surely be deterrence. LWOP, particularly when combined with both hard labor and solitary confinement, can be a powerful deterrent for those who do not commit capital crimes in the heat of passion, or as a result of some severe mental illness or emotional disturbance.
Chip Long February 14, 2014 at 08:58 AM
Lets start to enforce the death penalty, not do away with it!!!!!!!
cajanae February 14, 2014 at 10:19 AM
Let me be the first to sign it--bring it on and bring it back!
scott dittrich February 14, 2014 at 10:58 AM
Recent studies show the deterrence effecting of the death penalty in spite of the ridiculous 20 year delay, There are some crimes so terrible that the individual deserves the ultimate punishment. Those close to the one murdered deserve resolution. Someone who rapes or tortures another and then kills them deserves DP. "Surely he who murders shall be put to death."
Chris T. February 14, 2014 at 11:41 AM
When Richard "the night stalker" Ramirez died of cancer/old age after being convicted of THIRTEEN counts of 1st degree murder in 1986, I realized there was a serious issue. I mean, they stopped trying his cases because they already had 13 trips to the chair for him. How did that piece of garbage get that many stays of execution?
John B. Greet February 14, 2014 at 12:03 PM
If the goal of the death penalty for some is punishment, I suggest it is not nearly so punitive as it should be. Access to libraries, televisions, and professionally prepared food for decades is far less punitive than LWOP combined with hard labor and solitary confinement (and which does *not* include these privileges) would be. This sort of LWOP would also be far less costly to society, and far more effective as a deterrent. I don't want these heinous monsters to peacefully go to sleep and then gently cease to breathe. I want them to spend the rest of their natural lives working hard and earning an income so as to pay restitution to the families of their victims and otherwise offset the costs of their incarceration. I want them to consume only military MRE's and water, three meals a day, every day, until their bodies are too old to digest solid food. LWOP administered in *this* way would, I think, be a far more powerful deterrent than capital punishment as we currently administer it.
Shripathi Kamath February 14, 2014 at 01:13 PM
While I have never been fully convinced of retributive (only) form of justice, there are a few elements that I see when it comes to the cases where the death penalty currently applies—usually horrific, violent offenses (I'd argue that some non-violent crimes that clean out a family's livelihood through, say, financial fraud should also qualify, but that's another debate). First is to ensure that the offender is separated from society. Second, acknowledge that humans err, and where possible we should leave room for correcting in some fashion (better than nothing) an erroneous or a malicious conviction. Third is justice to the family of the victim(s) with some form of restitution where possible, not revenge. ___________________________________________________ John Greet's suggestions above, meet all of them. Based on enough studies, I think it'll be cheaper and provide some sense of closure, and although I do not know if it'd suffice or serve as a deterrent, I would like to think that it stands a very good chance. ___________________________________________________ I can see arguments then being made that LWOP too is irreversible, or too final, and that we should make attempts to rehabilitate even the most violent ones in society. I can agree with that, but currently see no processes that even come close. That being the case, ensuring that such offenders are separated from society is the overriding priority. Perhaps we can first work on rehabilitating offenders convicted for far less serious crimes. Not doing too well there.
Joker Joe February 14, 2014 at 01:40 PM
Seems a shame we need another law to enforce a law????
Joker Joe February 14, 2014 at 01:41 PM
Get rid of those obstruction justice! DA, Governors, judges, etc. If the victim's family will not flip the switch, put it up for bid. Use the money to lower the Ca. deficit!!
Matt Gaffney February 14, 2014 at 02:16 PM
I'm a firm believer in Capital Punishment. A speedy trial, a speedy appeal & a speedy execution. Done.
Alberto Barrera February 14, 2014 at 08:14 PM
While I believe that there are some people who are simply too dangerous to keep alive, I'd have to support ending the Death penalty in California simply because it is inefficient.
Chip Long February 14, 2014 at 08:26 PM
Alberto . . . . It is only inefficient because they take forever to actually execute someone. We need quick justice! They should be put to death within 1 year max, preferably 30 days upon being found guilty.
Donkey Howdy February 14, 2014 at 10:12 PM
what if death is wonderful?
Shirley Dicktor February 14, 2014 at 11:19 PM
You will know one day, won't you Donkey?
Tim Liao February 14, 2014 at 11:32 PM
This is very good news. We need to give much more compassion in our society to the victims and less attention and sympathy to the perpetrators.
Dave Newell February 15, 2014 at 11:22 AM
The debate on the death penalty could be more easily put to rest by rewriting the laws which govern it. Our Constitution, both Federal and State, allow for amendments and changes to be made based on the needs of society, and popular sovereignty. But one thing which has not been addressed is the need for another Constitutional Congress to be held, even though the Founding Fathers did outline not only the need but that it would be required over the passage of time in order to guarantee the preservation of Democracy. We have seen the fall of Communism in recent times, and with the way our society is giving way to allow criminals more rights than victims, it could eventually lead to our downfall. Our nation was built on a foundation of Common Law and common sense. It seems that both have gone to the wind when it comes to the penal system.
Smokey Bear February 16, 2014 at 04:22 AM
They did the crime which got them to death row, now flip the friggin switch already! I don't want to pay for their 3 meals a day, free gym & cable TV. For those who oppose, just think of the poor victims of these crimes & put your family member name in place of the victim & soul search to see how you really feel. Because I believe that life is a gift & if you take a big steaming dump on it, then you deserve what is coming to you!!
Donkey Howdy February 16, 2014 at 09:55 PM
what if I think about the rather high percentage of innocents that die in the death chamber? There's more than a couple.. Hope it doesn't happen to be me one day..because some eyewitness lies, because some DA lies or creates evidence..
quercus February 17, 2014 at 06:38 PM
If it is immoral to kill, generally; and I think it is- the death penalty is a bad idea. When one adds how often the government gets things wrong, the death penalty is a really bad idea.
Chip Long February 17, 2014 at 07:29 PM
Execute them. . . . . they deserve to die! the world will be a better place without them.
Ben Dover February 17, 2014 at 09:34 PM
The State needs to Expedite the process, they should schedule all the executions back to back and confiscate every cable/sat channel and televise it live. Let all people regardless of age watch, what happens when you harm others. The victims should get to flip the switch. Maybe a running man type of show but with the victims picking the weapons of death. A whole bunch of holes will need to be dug, more shovel ready jobs for Obama to fund.

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