Not so fast, executioner Judge was right to put brakes on death penalty request September 16, 2012 12:00 AM
A Superior Court judge has properly declined to order the immediate execution of two murderers who've been on death row for more than 25 years each.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said he did not have jurisdiction to order the executions using a one-drug protocol that has never been used in California.
At Monday's hearing, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley suggested a virtual end-run around the current logjam in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over the way executions are done. The federal court has blocked executions in the state since 2006, the year of the last execution, over objections that the three-drug protocol was carried out in such a way as to cause "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The procedure has been adopted, but now drug makers are stopping production of one of the needed and approved drugs.
All of this maneuvering over the fate of the state's 725 death row inmates has resulted in just 13 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978. In the same period, 57 condemned inmates have died of natural causes; six have died from other causes; and 20 have committed suicide.
And in that period the state has spent about $4 billion on its dysfunctional capital punishment system.
That cost is one of the arguments for passage of Proposition 34 on the November ballot. It would end the death penalty and substitute life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In other words, it would substitute the uncertainty of execution for the certainty of a slow-motion execution that is life in prison without hope. And it would save taxpayers billions much better spent on free, productive citizens deserving it.
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