| Vast Majority of Californians Support Capital Punishment |
A Field poll conducted June 22 and July 5 reflects a dramatic increase in public support for the death penalty in California.The Field Poll, which has conducted surverys on capital punishment since 1956, released its results indicating that 70 percent of California voters now support the death penalty, up from 67 percent in its 2006 poll. Additionally, the poll found that 6 percent had no opinion, while only 24 percent were opposed.
Interesting was the fact that both Democrats as well as Republicans supported the death penalty in huge percentages, with 63% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans in favor of the use of capital punishment in dealing with the most heinous murderers. Also noteworthy is the fact that 69% of third-party voters and independents also support the death penalty.
Disturbing, however, was the response from the anti-capital punishment group, Death Penalty Focus, based in San Francisco. When asked about the poll results, associate director of DPF, Stefanie Faucher, indicated that there is a growing number of people who rather favor life without parole as an alternative. "It is more cost-effective, is carried out more quickly and doesn't drag victims through years of appeals," she claimed.
In their 2008 testimony before the commission considering the validity of lethal injection in 2008, both Dr. Garber and I exposed these theories by reminding the commissioners that the reason for the extensive and outrageous costs and delays related to the implementation of capital punishment are directly linked to the endless appeals that follow one's conviction and sentencing at the trial court.
"These appeals go back and forth between the state and federal courts like ping pong balls," Dr. Garber testified.
I advised the commission and the packed room of spectators that the sentence of "life without parole" was, in fact, ambiguous, since inmates could petition the governor and/or state supreme court for a commutation of sentence to "life with parole" after a specific period of time had passed. And our constitution prohibits ambiguity in the law. Therefore, "life without parole" is a farcial sentence at best.
I informed the commission that since 1963 California has experienced more than 108,000 murders with only 14 executions. This, I said, amounted to sheer tokinism, and prevented the realization of a secondary deterrence effect - that of deterring others from killing.
The average death row inmate spends more than 20 years awaiting execution, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to support the worst of all criminals, those who must forever be considered "suspect".
We urge Californians to call on their representatives in the legislature to limit the number of death penalty appeals to something reasonable. We suggest a single appeal at the state court level and perhaps one federal appeal. We trust you will agree.