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Old 03-06-2005, 05:55 PM
softheart softheart is offline
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Default California Death Row Often Means a Long Life.

California condemns more murderers than any state but
Texas, yet it accounts for only 1% of the nation's
executions. Today, 640 inmates await the penalty.
By Rone Tempest
Times Staff Writer

March 6, 2005

SAN QUENTIN - When prison guards strapped nervous
three-time killer Donald Beardslee to a gurney and
administered a lethal injection just after midnight
here on Jan. 19, it was the first California execution
in more than three years.

Beardslee, who in 1981 brutally murdered two young San
Francisco area women after he was paroled from a
Missouri prison on another murder conviction, waited
21 years for his day of reckoning. He was 61 and had
been on death row longer than the entire life span of
one of his victims.

In the quarter century since Californians voted
overwhelmingly to restore the death penalty, county
prosecutors and juries have put more condemned
murderers on death row in this state than in any other
except Texas.

Despite the public's willingness to hand out death
sentences, California is one of the more hesitant
among the 38 capital punishment states to use the
penalty, causing some to question if the enormous
ongoing cost of capital punishment is worth the
relatively few executions it produces.

California has 640 inmates on death row, about 20% of
the nation's total. But the state has accounted for
only 1% of the nation's executions - or 11 deaths -
since 1978, when the death penalty was restored.

"What we are paying for at such great cost," said UC
Berkeley law professor Frank Zimring, "is essentially
our own ambivalence about capital punishment. We try
to maintain the apparatus of state killing and another
apparatus that almost guarantees that it won't happen.
The public pays for both sides."

According to state and federal records obtained by The
Times, maintaining the California death penalty system
costs taxpayers more than $114 million a year beyond
the cost of simply keeping the convicts locked up for
life and not counting the millions more in court costs
needed to prosecute capital cases and hold
post-conviction hearings in state and federal courts.

With 11 executions spread over 27 years, on a
per-execution basis, California and federal taxpayers
have paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars for
each life taken at state hands.

Capital punishment advocates argue that the death
penalty saves money by eliminating state costs of
housing the executed inmates. The rare California
executions do produce some savings for the state. For
example, had Beardsley lived to age 77, the average
life expectancy for California males, it would have
cost the state an additional $2 million to house him.
But these kinds of savings make only a small dent in
the overall sums needed to maintain the system.

Former California Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, now a
Republican member of Congress from Sacramento, accuses
capital punishment opponents of conducting a "war of
attrition" against the death penalty, jacking up the
cost and greatly prolonging appeals with the intent of
making the process too expensive to keep up.

"I don't think society ought to be forced to give up
the death penalty just because of actions by those who
have been ratcheting up the costs," said Lungren, who
helped write a 1996 federal law attempting to speed up
capital case appeals. "It is very difficult to
calculate the human costs or even the economic costs
of those who are not killed because of the deterrence
of capital punishment."

Other states execute much more rapidly than
California. Eleven Southern states - led by Texas (337
executions), Virginia (94) and Oklahoma (75) - account
for 90% of all executions in the last 27 years. This
is partly because California, similar to other
non-Southern capital punishment states, dedicates much
more time and money to state and federal appeals.

Another important factor is that the U.S. 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals, serving California and composed
largely of Democratic appointees, is more likely to
hear death penalty petitions than the more
conservative appeals courts serving Texas (5th
Circuit) and Virginia (4th Circuit).

"We don't turn them [executions] out the way a lot of
Southern states do," California Chief Justice Ronald
M. George said in an interview. "The virtue of our
system is also its vice. We go to such lengths to
minimize the possibility of error, and we've built in
a lot of delay. The part I find most dysfunctional is
that we have a delay of three to four years between
the time of the death penalty judgment is imposed by
the trial court and the time the defendant is
appointed counsel."

George said that 115 death row inmates still have not
been appointed lawyers for the first direct appeal to
the state Supreme Court that is mandated by state law.
And 149 lack lawyers for state habeas corpus and
executive clemency petitions.

In recent years, both state and federal courts have
increased the incentives for qualified defense
attorneys to take death penalty cases. The state
Supreme Court offers $125 an hour or fixed fees
ranging from $135,000 to $314,000 for capital case
defense representation. The federal courts recently
increased their hourly rate to $150 for defense
lawyers in capital cases.

But even at those rates, only a relative handful of
attorneys from the 200,000 licensed to practice in
California are willing to devote the years of work and
vast number of filings a typical capital case can

Because of the long appeals process, the delay between
sentencing and execution in California averages nearly
20 years. As a result, there is a general graying of
the population on death row. According to Department
of Corrections statistics, 180 death row inmates are
older than 50; 42 are older than 60.

Prison records show that California death row inmates
are far more likely to die of natural causes than they
are at the hands of the executioner. Since 1978,
during the same period that 11 inmates were put to
death, 28 died naturally, 12 committed suicide and two
were killed in incidents on the San Quentin exercise

"The leading cause of death on death row," George
said, "is old age."

Capital punishment California style has become a small
industry. Every February, organizers with the
California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and
California Public Defenders Assn. host a conference on
death penalty issues in Monterey, Calif.

This year's convention, titled "Executing Justice, not
People" was held at a cost of $300 a head. More than
1,500 participants attended workshops on topics that
included "What the Enemy Is Doing" and "Sexual Abuse
of Our Clients When They Were Young."

Among the tactics routinely discussed by attendees is
how to prolong appeals.

The public cost of maintaining the death penalty,
meanwhile, continues to mount. The annual bill breaks
down like this:

According to Corrections Department spokeswoman Margot
Bach, it costs $90,000 more a year to house an inmate
on death row, where each person has a private cell and
extra guards, than in the general prison population.
That accounts for $57.5 million annually.

Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, whose deputies represent the
counties during appeals, estimates that he devotes
about 15% of his criminal division budget to capital
cases, or about $11 million annually.

The California Supreme Court, which is required by law
to review every death penalty case, spends $11.8
million annually for court-appointed defense counsel.

The Office of the State Public Defender, which
represents some death row inmates, has an annual
budget of $11.3 million. The San Francisco-based
Habeas Corpus Resource Center, another state-funded
office, represents inmates and trains death penalty
attorneys on a budget of $11 million.

Finally, federal public defenders offices in Los
Angeles and Sacramento, and private attorneys
appointed by the federal court system for California
cases, receive about $12 million annually.

The resulting $114-million annual cost does not
include the substantial extra funds needed to try the
complicated capital cases in county courts.

Research by the UC Berkeley School of Public Policy in
1993, the most recent study of its type available,
showed that in Los Angeles County, a capital murder
trial costs three times more to try than a noncapital
murder case, $1.9 million compared to $630,000. One
reason for the extra costs is that capital cases
require a jury trial for sentencing after guilt has
been determined in the first trial.

Typically, capital cases have four times as many
pretrial motions, more investigators and expert
testimony and much more exhaustive jury selection.

Other spending not included in the total are
courtroom, staff and filing costs at the California
Supreme Court, four federal district courts and the
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In an interview, George estimated that the state's
highest court spends about 20% of its time and
resources on death penalty cases alone. Federal habeas
corpus appeals in death cases are so expensive that
the 9th Circuit assigns a U.S. district judge just to
review the budgets of each capital case.

For the present, activists both for and against the
death penalty are unhappy.

"When we reinstated the death penalty, I don't think
anyone believed it would look like it does today,"
said Dane Gillette, a senior assistant attorney
general who overseas the state's death penalty cases.
"The system is twisted and corrupted in ways that were
not anticipated."

Michael Laurence, director of the Habeas Corpus
Resource Center and one of the state's leading capital
defense lawyers, sees the whole process as an enormous
misuse of resources.

"We put all these resources into litigation where we
end up killing one person every two or three years,"
said Laurence. "What if just a small portion of the
money we spent on these cases went for the prevention
of child abuse? From my experience, this would have
done far more to prevent murders than anything we have
done with capital punishment."

Possibly as a result of the high costs and bottleneck
on death row, there has been a marked decline in death
sentences in recent years. In 1999, juries imposed 42
death sentences. In 2004, the number dropped to nine.

But the numbers fluctuate, and new admissions to
California's death row continue to exceed by many
times the number of executions.

USC law professor Michael J. Brennan said he and a
co-counsel, Los Angeles lawyer Phillip A. Trevino,
have represented two California death row inmates on
federal appeals for the last 12 years, for which
Brennan estimates they have been paid $250,000.

Brennan said that when he debates the issue with death
penalty supporters, he no longer bothers with the
ethical and moral issues.

"I had a conversation with someone recently who
admitted to being sort of a redneck on the death
penalty," Brennan said recently. "But when I said,
'Let's talk about how much it costs,' I suddenly got
his attention."

source: LA Times
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Old 03-18-2005, 10:34 PM
03 B&C 03 B&C is offline
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Well as someone who lives in Cali and pays taxes I guess we will be taking care of Scott Peterson for a long long time to come. Personally that's fine with me because I don't believe we have the right to take a life......
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Old 03-19-2005, 03:58 AM
knakker knakker is offline
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Originally Posted by 03 B&C
Well as someone who lives in Cali and pays taxes I guess we will be taking care of Scott Peterson for a long long time to come. Personally that's fine with me because I don't believe we have the right to take a life......
A capital trial, conviction and appeal process multiplies the cost of keeping a convicted person in jail for the rest of his/her life. That is even the case without a stretching length of the appeal processes like in California.

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Old 09-17-2005, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by knakker
A capital trial, conviction and appeal process multiplies the cost of keeping a convicted person in jail for the rest of his/her life. That is even the case without a stretching length of the appeal processes like in California.

This is exactly why I think we should get rid of the death penalty. It is cheaper for the life without parole sentence. I watched everything I could find on the death penalty trial for Scott Peterson. The whole time believing that he was guilty and praying for a death penalty verdict.... but as I sat there on the day the death sentence was given I cried. Not because I don't think he is guilty... but because I was holding my own baby boy in my arms.. the way I am sure Scott's mother held him when he was young. If that sentence is ever carried out and once again I pray it isn't.... what about his family? What about his mother? Speaking of a mother who has a child in heaven... It's never going to be over for her. But thats my opinion.
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Old 12-11-2005, 10:14 PM
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it seems to me that the writer of this article is hating on california death row. i agree with whats said above, they have no right to take a life, and they should think long and hard before they think of executing anyone because so many people have been innocent and sentenced to death, plus executing someone brings no justice to anything. im glad californias death row is the way it is, but i really think they should abolish the death penalty period.

Last edited by RegisSweetness; 12-11-2005 at 10:18 PM..
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Old 12-11-2005, 10:16 PM
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About California's death row...the other day my mom was asking me about Tookie Williams and how I felt about the whole thing (since according to her, I covort with criminals) and when she asked me what state he was being executed in, I said California and she was shocked. Our executions here are for the most part, few and far between, but that doesn't make the death penalty right.
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Old 12-11-2005, 10:24 PM
Zapatista Zapatista is offline
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When prison guards strapped nervous
three-time killer Donald Beardslee to a gurney and
administered a lethal injection just after midnight
here on Jan. 19, it was the first California execution
in more than three years.

Uhh, am I nuts or did this say a guard administers the injection? I guess it just sounds too sick to say a doctor does it.
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