I Have a Horse in this Race | The California Death Penalty

I was probably a preteen when I first discussed the death penalty with my dad – he was against it. He’d actually tried a death penalty case (the guy was guilty) and interestingly enough, Lyman had figured out there was a way to potentially get him off based on a technicality. But, as I understand the story, instead he pursued a vigorous defense and the guy was still convicted (they had him dead to rights I guess). Ironically, no one remembers if he got the death penalty or not.

Today Gavin Newsom stopped executions for now in California.

I could not be happier about this. I don’t think the death penalty serves any purpose other than showcasing our inhumanity. [Yes, I can already hear you saying, “But these people aren’t human!” You might be right, but I’m talking about us.] With DeAngelo in a cage, believe me, I know that argument well. As I sit there, staring at him, my eyes burning into the back of his head, it’s like I’m trying to jiggle The Force to try and figure out how a human could hurt so many other humans.

I’m sure this action will upset a lot of people and as I straddle the line here, I get it. I think the Polly Klaas case is one many of us in the Bay Area shared our feelings with Ronn Owens who aptly admitted he wasn’t pro-death penalty but Richard Allen Davis was a unadulterated piece of shit who needed to be put down. Fun fact: if you go look at that link about Davis, you’ll see why this led to California passing a three strikes law. This case was beyond sickening and picturing him dead satisfied a lot of feelings. But it didn’t bring Polly back.

“California’s modern history reflects a population that recognizes that the criminal justice system has been too harsh on the poor and minorities.”

That’s from today’s LA Times. And it rings true. Nothing demonstrates the inequities in the system than last week’s sentencing of Paul Manafort, which seems relatively light compared to this woman who voted by mistake. There’s a reason justice has a blindfold on; justice should be fair. But the death penalty is one way justice isn’t fair.

The death penalty isn’t helping anyone.

I want to be incredibly pragmatic about this.

It’s expensive. The special circumstances in the case against DeAngelo is one thing driving up the cost. I can’t factor out that extra expense, but if we use this data, someone who is good at math can maybe extrapolate what percentage of the estimated $21 million is due to the death penalty.

In a 2012 study of the costs of capital punishment in California, it was determined that on average, death penalty cases involved 120 more court days than non-capital cases at a rate of $3,589 per court day for an additional cost of $430,680 per case. California estimated that it costs an additional $90,000 per year to house a death row inmate. A California study concluded that due to appeals the average time from conviction to the filing of a federal habeas corpus had risen to nearly five years from 1.5 years in 1979.

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It consumes resources. Every lawyer working a death penalty case, is no longer available to work on other cases. In addition, it’s likely to be our best lawyers who really understand criminal law, who are defending these folks.

It treats Death Row inmates differently. They’re on Death Row and so they get a private cell, private yard time and privileges. This has been a hot button for me. I want DeAngelo in the general population, not on some private Row with privacy. Nope, these jerks (think Scott Peterson) deserve to have to negotiate with other prisoners. I would love to watch DeAngelo try his “angry old man” act on a 24 year old who’s got no time for that.

And finally….

The Death Penalty doesn’t do what it’s intended to do. It’s supposed to be a deterrent to committing crimes. As we know with DeAngelo – who was a cop! – he knew what the death penalty meant. He was extremely aware. But he gave no f-cks. None.

Instead, the death penalty makes us culpable. It doesn’t bring back our loved ones. It doesn’t give us closure – how can killing someone heal anyone? We can’t meet cruelty with cruelty. If we do, how are we different? Pretending there’s a moral high-ground disappears once death is evoked. And God forbid, we execute someone who is innocent – that’s a risk we should be unwilling to take (but DeAngelo is guilty – we have DNA baby).

I spoke with Sister Helen Prejean on Twitter once. I squealed with glee when she messaged me back. Her work is amazing and there are many resources on her site. I encourage you to click around and see what you think.

Thank you Gavin, you might have just saved the state millions on our case alone.

I have a call into my Ventura folks to see what this means for the case. We’re heading back to court on April 10th in Sacramento. I’ll be there.

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights: Five Family Films that will Foster Discussion

Today, around the world, bloggers are coming together to write about a single topic: Human Rights. An online event sponsored by Bloggers Unite, this effort is intended to “shine a light” on a single topic with different – lets face it millions of – perspectives from all over the globe.

When my daughter finally ends up in therapy, my mom assures me it will be because I talked her to death. I am a communications major and I love to talk. And one of the best parts of parenting is having the opportunity to have great discussions with my daughter – we talk about everything – and one subject that comes up a lot in our household is human rights.

It takes many forms and contexts, but the essential underlying theme is that all people deserve to be free – to be able to speak freely, pursue religion as they see fit and have their basic needs met – food, water, safety. Many of our discussions have happened while watching movies. As avid Netflix members, we have family movie night on Friday and Saturday nights.

Family Movie Night: Dinner and Debate

Gramma comes over, we make a good “picnic” dinner and settle in for a family film. We usually allocate about three hours because I am notorious for hitting the pause button to stop and explain what is happening, why it happens and get Katie’s perspective on what she’s seeing. This process tends to drive my mom a bit crazy, but the overall result is I have a child who understands things on a very “connected” level. And I see her bring this wisdom to the events that happening in her eight-year-old world.

So, I sat down with her last night and talked about some of the best movies we have watched and asked her which ones made lasting impressions. There have been so many, but we decided to choose our top five. We hope you watch them with your kids – and I encourage you to look at the reviews on Common Sense Media to make sure they are a fit with your values and to make you aware of what subjects may come up. Four of the links provided for each movie will take you there.

Our Top Five “Discussion” Films (in no particular order)

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Surprise! Aside from this being one of my all time favorites, it turns out there’s a rather interesting back story with the Nazi’s pursuing the Ark. We stopped during the movie to talk about Nazi Germany, the war and who owns national treasures. We also ended up discussing the Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban as an example of how some people don’t respect the values of others.


Based in fact, this story is about an African American swimmer, Jim Ellis, who deals with discrimination in different ways. The story is inspirational if not aggravating at times as it shows how race was perceived in the 1970s. We ended up having a great discussion about how man (humans) can be so cruel to one another and that we all have a responsibility to stand up when we see something bad happening. I think Katie got the concept of just because everyone does it and condones it, does not make it right.

Bend It Like Beckham

This one is great for girls (boys too) as it shows the contrast between cultures and the struggles many kids have when their parents believe in one thing and the kids they live with every day believe in something else. For us, this lead to an interesting talk about doing what you believe is right despite what your parents’ tell you to do. Is it okay to lie? What if it is for the right reasons? I believe teaching Katie to be a critical thinker is essential to helping her fight for what she believes in, including the rights of others. This movie gave us a chance to talk about values, principles, behavior and having the guts to stand by her convictions.

Pursuit of Happyness

Based on a true story, this looks at homelessness, parenting and the struggle one can have when things aren’t going well. It also demonstrates human kindness, perseverance and the power of the parent/child relationship. We talked a lot about compassion when we watched this movie. We see the homeless is our own town and some of them have children in tow. Like most kids, Katie is compelled to help. So I have given her a way to take action. I help her give her old toys and clothes to the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center and we donate regularly to the Second Harvest Food Bank. She understands we are lucky to have what we have and she feels good about sharing what we have.

Ruby Bridges

Another movie based on reality, this is a great movie about the strength of a small girl, her parents and how her strength helped change our culture. We ended up Googling the woman, Ruby Bridges, after the movie desperate to learn more about what she had become after living through such an incredible childhood. Ruby is one of the first children to attend a white school in Louisiana at the request of the NAACP. The movie is awesome as it tells the story in a way that older children will understand. Katie and I talked about racism, courage, fear, anger and honor as we watched her story play out. This is a great movie to watch with the whole family.

Do you have movies you would add to this list? I would love to hear about it. We are always looking for new movies to watch and discuss. Please add a comment and let me know!

PS: not every family movie night is mommy propaganda time – we also watch the fun ones like Ratatouille, Enchanted and Jurassic Park!