Guest opinion: Raising questions about the death penalty | January 31, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Viewpoint - January 31, 2018

Guest opinion: Raising questions about the death penalty

by Henry Organ

On Jan. 8, the District Attorney's (DA) Office of San Mateo County announced that it will seek the death penalty for an individual charged with the murder of a 17-month-old girl. The DA's office has described the act as "... an extraordinarily horrific crime against one of the most vulnerable members of our society ... ."

Indeed, horrific acts against others is unacceptable in a civilized society, but should that society respond similarly with state-sanctioned murder?

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.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by In Gratitude
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 6:54 pm

Thank you Mr. Organ, This is a reminder to us the voters and to the County D.A. that executing human beings is finally becoming a repugnant option in punishing those who murder others. One can only hope that some day we , as a nation, will leave the company of the other 57 countries that still execute criminals.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2018 at 9:15 am

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

I have always been opposed to the Death Penalty especially with my personal knowledge of the amount of Prosecutorial Misconduct that occurs daily in San Mateo County Courts with the blessings of the Board of Supervisors and most of our Judges (Hon. Judge Donald Ayoob the exception). With that said after attending the preliminary hearing of the case mentioned above, I would volunteer to pull the trigger if that option was available and if he had a fair trial.

If any case deserves the death penalty sentence I believe this one qualifies.

I am sorry for the mother who lost her daughter to a love interest and I am sorry for all Law Enforcement and First Responders that had to work this case. Thank You for what you do.


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 2, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

[Off-topic post removed]


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

I long ago started to oppose the death penalty. Not because I don't think it is, it most certainly is, the criminal will never offend again. No, I oppose it because it is not cost effective. At least in this state. There is so much money and so much time spent on endless appeals that it is simply cheaper to keep these people in prison for the rest of their lives.


4 people like this
Posted by wut would....
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2018 at 2:49 pm

State sanctioned murder as vengeance makes me wonder...

WWJD?


Like this comment
Posted by Reality
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 4, 2018 at 6:21 pm

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe is obsessed with the death penalty. How come?


Like this comment
Posted by Jun Rm
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Iran, China etc. love killing their citizens, too.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 6, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

[Off-topic post removed]


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 6, 2018 at 3:06 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

I agree with Henry Organ. I recommend an article, "Capital Punishment - The Pope's Position" which I found on the internet, for thoughtful consideration of the topic.

It can be found here:
Web Link


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