The Death Penalty in California

Overview

The Death Penalty in California is the definitive anthology on capital punishment and its benefit to society. It details the facts about capital punishment in California from diverse perspectives. The articles provide academic, fact-based research that proves the need for capital punishment to ensure a safe society.

Capital Punishment is Limited to the Worst Criminal Offenses
The death penalty applies only to "carefully contemplated" first-degree murder, or murders committed with premeditation and malice. District Attorneys have "consistently reserved the death penalty for only the worst of the worst." A murder conviction alone does not qualify. At least one of 22 special circumstances must be proven to trigger eligibility for capital punishment. During the 30-year history of California's death penalty law, there has never been a single finding of prosecutorial abuse.

The Death Penalty and Deterrence
The death penalty deters crime; this is proven by simple logic, first-hand accounts, and statistical studies. Research by Pepperdine University Professor Roy Adler, Ph.D. concluded that each execution carried out was associated with 74 fewer murders the following year. Other analyses reveal that each execution deters somewhere between three and 25 murders a year. Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, an opponent of the death penalty has conceded, "[o]f course, the death penalty deters some crimes. That's why you have to pay more for a hit man in a death penalty state than a non-death penalty state."

The Death Penalty Is Colorblind
Death penalty opponents allege that capital punishment targets minority populations, but these attacks are unsubstantiated. By contrast, U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that African-Americans constituted 48 percent of adults charged with homicide, but only 42 percent of those sentenced of death. Once arrested for murder, African-Americans are less likely to receive a capital sentence than are whites. Similarly, attacks on capital punishment "race of the victim" bias are also inaccurate. Ninety-five percent (95%) of murders are intra-racial, most likely between persons who know one another, circumstances often viewed as inappropriate for the death penalty. In crimes that qualify for a capital sentence, a significant number of death penalty cases involve murder of law enforcement officers, about 85 percent of whom are white.

The Death Penalty Has Never Been Used on an Innocent Person
Opponents suggest that innocent people have been put to death, but there is not a single case to support this claim. Professors Michael Radelet and Hugo Bedau, considered among the leading authorities in the anti-capital punishment effort, can cite but one case during the past 30 years - that of James Adams, convicted in 1974. To find Adams "innocent," the two had to ignore such compelling evidence of guilt as money stained with the victim's blood, the victim's eyeglasses found in Adam's possession and witnesses placing Adams at the murder location at the time of the offense. A dispassionate review of the facts of the case demonstrates, however, that Adams was unquestionably guilty.

The Solution: Eliminate California's Artificial Death Penalty Backlog

Currently there are 669 condemned inmates on California's Death Row, but there have only been 13 executions over the last three decades. In short, "the California death penalty is alive and well - but so are most of the murderers it sent to death row." A detailed analysis of studies comparing the rate of capital punishment appeals with other states further illustrate that California capital appeals do not need to take as long as they do or cost as much as they do. The Death Penalty in California clearly demonstrates the importance of capital punishment. However, enforcement in California has become a lengthy, expensive process that endangers society and harms victims' families. As evidenced in other states with well-functioning capital punishment, the solution in California is to eliminate the artificial backlog of cases, provide the convicted with reasonable due process but also ensure due process and the rights of victims' families for closure and-most importantly-justice.