Death Penalty

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For nearly 19 years, I was a state court judge in Santa Clara County. I presided over criminal cases where I sentenced many convicted felons to life in prison. In 2001 I retired, in part, because California's broken and battered death penalty system is taking justice out of our criminal justice system.

The death penalty has created a public safety gap. Forty-six percent of murders and 56 percent of rapes in California are unsolved. And they won't be solved as long as the dollars to hire more police are siphoned off to pay the $100,000 to house each of the 720 inmates on death row annually. Death row inmates are safer than we are. That's not justice.

The death penalty is unreliable. Across the country, 138 people have been freed from death row because they were found to be factually innocent. Three of those innocent were on California's death row.

You cannot undo death. The risk that California will execute innocent people is not justice.

To go from conviction to execution in California averages 25 years, denying many victims' families the justice of closure. Since 1978, 13 executions have cost California $4 billion. That's $300 million per execution. Meanwhile, funding for schools, libraries, community centers, police and fire departments is going down the tubes. That's not justice.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals; and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. We must realize that the time is always ripe to do right."

The time is ripe for Californians to replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole.

That is justice.

With a Perspective, I'm LaDoris Cordell.