Every Friday the LA Progressive features a comment that was particularly noteworthy. This week we are featuring a comment that was submitted in response to "It Is Likely We Have Executed Innocent People" by Sharon Kyle. The comment was submitted by former California Assembly Representative Paul Koretz who is currently running for Los Angeles City Council.
Here's Paul's comment:
That is exactly why I authored a bill to implement a moritorium on the Death Penalty in the California State Assembly. Nationally since we reinstated the Death Penalty, over 100 people on death row have been exonerated, including six Californians (as I recall). The fact that information came to light that saved their lives and cleared them appears to have been happenstance, rather than anything terribly unique about their cases. I have no doubt that many more who haven’t been that lucky have died in prison or been executed.
I firmly believe that we can’t continue executing people until we have identified the patterns that lead to wrongful convictions and change the process.
I’m not a cheerleader for the death penalty anyway, but at a minimum, we must stop convicting (and I’m sure in some cases, executing) the innocent. There are few things more tragic than that.
One solution proposed is to provide for life in prison without possibility of parole in capital cases. The majority of Californians support the Death Penalty simply because they don’t want murderers ever to be released and be a threat to them and their families. It is a less expensive approach, and gives those who are innocent a modest chance to someday have that proven and obtain their release. Also, our State has a 100% perfect track record on this– no one ever given this penalty has been paroled and released.
In responding further to the question of whether innocence matters, I also did a bill to deal with how we handle those who are found innocent while serving time for the crimes for which they were convicted. Amazingly, we treat them worse than those who are guilty and are released after serving their time. We do not provide the social services given to the guilty, and we do not even automatically expunge their record! So in many cases, their conviction follows them for life, and they have the same high unemployment rate, suicide rate, etc. as the guilty.
I believe that bill would have passed with another year of pushing for it, but I was termed out before having the chance. (Alas, six year Assembly term limits). Hard to believe, but there was significant opposition.
I hope that at some point, innocence will matter much more than it does in our system presently.