Yes on Prop. 62 – NO on Prop. 66

Dueling propositions occur frequently on the California ballot. We have a few of them this year.

Propositions 62 and 66 both address the death penalty. Prop. 66 wants to change the appeals process for capital cases. Prop. 62 wants to get rid of the death penalty entirely.

Prop. 66 starts from the premise that the death penalty appeals process is too cumbersome, leading to costly delays. Furthermore, California’s death row has a population in the hundreds. The state has not executed anyone for 10 years. Inmates on death row will likely die of old age rather than execution. Therefore, the proposition seeks to speed up the appeals process so that executions will happen in a more timely fashion.

Ugh. If we have learned anything from the Black Lives Matters movement, it’s that the criminal justice system makes mistakes. More to the point, killing wrongly convicted persons is a travesty. Enough wrongly convicted persons have had their convictions overturned, often with the aid of DNA evidence, that we should take pause in the whole idea of condemning someone to death in the first place. Contrary to what President George W. Bush once said, the death penalty is vengeance, not justice.

I’m bringing back an oldie from the early day of the gar spot. Ptolemaic. It’s a word that describes a needlessly complicated process concocted to avoid a simpler, more obvious (and correct) answer.

Prop. 66 is Ptolemaic in the extreme. It seeks to make the ordeal of putting someone to death more palatable by speeding up the process, thus eliminating one of the concerns about capital punishment: it takes too long and costs too much money. It does take too long and it does cost too much money, but that argument ignores the moral issues of convicting the wrong person for a crime and putting someone to death in the first place.

I’ve hated the death penalty from day one. It’s applied arbitrarily: what makes one killing more heinous than another killing?  It’s racist: death row inmates are largely poor people of color, people who do not have access to “dream team” attorneys. The appeals process can take years. Sometimes the verdict is wrong. And the very process of killing someone “humanely” has become a perverse subject for the courts; there is no such thing as a humane execution. No amount of tweaking will save the death penalty or make it better. The obvious answer is to just get rid of it and institute life without the possibility of parole, which is exactly what Proposition 62 seeks to do.

Yes on 62.

No on 66.

By the way, the folks at Ballotpedia note that if both 62 and 66 pass, the one with the most votes takes effect, since they are mutually incompatible. So again, yes on 62, no on 66.

© 2016, gar. All rights reserved.

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