Schwartz & Powell

Stop the Death Penalty in November 2012

by Steven D. Powell Attorney at Law




The Death Penalty faces a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" vote in November 2012 when the punishment hits the California ballot. Earlier this week 800,000 signatures of registered voters looking to abolish the barbaric practice of killing convicted killers have been delivered to Sacramento. The demise of State authorized homicide will be in the electorate's hands this election year.

Ventura County criminal defense lawyers should all join together to let their friends and other prospective voters know more about the penalty. We aren't paid to do so but we should do so as a matter of conscience and public responsibility.

We will never convince an ardent proponent of killing prisoners convicted of murder that there's something wrong about the State and its citizens on a moral or philosophical level sanctioning such ritual homicide. If folks' moral compass points them toward killing prisoners convicted of murder, we can't fix it. Those on the fence, however, can be persuaded of the hypocrisy of the State killing a prisoner because he or she was convicted of murder.

There is no evidence the DP deters murder generally. Few murders I've heard of involve the culprit pausing and saying "I may get the DP for this but I am undeterred and shall therefore murder Joe." The real world doesn't work that way. Serious violent criminals don't weigh the consequences of their behavior. That's why they are serious violent criminals.

I imagine there could be some real desire for vengeance satisfied with the family and friends of the murder victim. But the DP in practice isn't imposed in California too often. We've had 13 executions in California since the law was reinstituted in 1978 by the Briggs Initiative.

Now even Senator Briggs evidently is urging the people of California to vote to abolish the practice. If anything, the imposition of a Death Penalty that will never be imposed probably torments the surviving victims of the murder where imposing a penalty of Life Without Possibility of Parole would bring whatever closure the judicial process can give to a victim of crime.

The death penalty is a gruesome luxury the People of the State of California simply cannot afford. It costs a fortune to prosecute and defend a death penalty case. From trial court to United States Supreme Court to all intermediate courts in between, costs spiral when one itemizes the cost of police investigation, allocation of prosecutorial resources, devotion of judicial budgets to process these cases and the prison cost of maintaining Death Row to house the condemned.

This cost doesn't even factor in the additional defense cost spawned by the ultimate penalty which requires the ultimate defense, from trial court to appeals to the United States Supreme Court. It is less expensive to house a prisoner for Life Without Possibility of Parole (LWOP) than it is to try to execute him or her.

In criminal law parlance, an execution is "homicide" - that's the box the coroner checks - but is deemed "excused" by virtue of the fact that the executioner "was only following his orders."  The circularity of this reasoning should be apparent, although it is not so readily apparent to the politically popular Pro Death faction.

In a world of finite resources, we cannot afford to fund this barbaric system. So, to my colleagues and others who have kind hearts, remember: you will never convince those voting in the next election they are wrong in wanting to execute prisoners convicted of killing. You may, however, persuade them they cannot afford to indulge their desire for the dealth penalty. You cannot be a fiscal conservative in favor of the death penalty.  It doesn't work that way in the real world.  

If you are accused any serious crime, including homicide you need the best defense lawyer to represent you. The Criminal Law Office of Schwartz & Powell has criminal defense attorneys who have handled death penalty cases.  In your defense remember that Expereience Matters.