Irrespective of the savagery of cases, the public is faced with the immorality of executions, and the role of the state in them. Should the state take human life? How exact a process is this decision to seek execution in the first place? Should DA offices be entrusted and burdened with making this decision? And, once that decision to seek the death penalty is made, there is the dubious ethics and fairness of prosecution, jury selection and deliberations, role of the judiciary, and adequacy of defense.
Is this too arbitrary a process to seek the death penalty, given the finality of executions? There is no "do over," once "over."
Presumably, the decision to seek the death penalty by the DA is on behalf of the perceived interests of the citizens. The reader may recall that last year there were two propositions on the state ballot regarding the death penalty. One was Proposition 62, which sought to abolish the death penalty; the other was Proposition 66, which sought to hasten executions. (Note that Proposition 66 was strongly supported by the California District Attorneys Association, and the DA of San Mateo County was its president; not exactly an unbiased position.)
Unfortunately, the proposition to abolish the death penalty failed; and, the proposition to hasten executions was passed, but narrowly. Fortunately, the force of Proposition 66, now law, was seriously weakened in a court decision.
The two propositions must be examined at the county level, however. As opposed to state vote results, 57 percent of San Mateo County citizens who voted supported abolishing the death penalty! As opposed to the state voting results, 53 percent of the San Mateo County citizens who voted cast their votes against hastening executions! These are significant results, but apparently not significant enough for the DA's office.
Should the will of the county's voters be disrespected by the DA regarding pursuit of state-sponsored murder? The DA has stated that abolishing the death penalty "... would be a blow to crime victims." With due respect and compassion for those victims, the death penalty is not for the benefit of crime victims; it is the law of and by the people. In addition, more and more survivors of murdered family members are asking that the death penalty not be sought.
Perhaps the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors should adopt a resolution recommending that the county be a sanctuary against the death penalty.
Retired Stanford Development Officer Henry Organ has lived in Menlo Park for more than 40 years. He was a member of the San Mateo County 2010 Charter Committee.
This story contains 497 words.
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