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No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

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Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a second chance.
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailm…

California: Yes on Prop. 34, death penalty repeal

Execution chamber and witness room
at San Quentin prison, California
California's death penalty has not satisfied anyone since it was reinstated 35 years ago. Those who are morally opposed to capital punishment decry the 13 lives taken by the state. Those who believe the death penalty brings justice and closure are frustrated that the average time between sentence and execution is 25 years.

"I have concluded that it is dysfunctional and cannot be fixed," said Gil Garcetti, former Los Angeles district attorney who supports capital punishment but argues that the way it is imposed in California is "a colossal waste of money."

Garcetti has become a leading spokesperson for Proposition 34, which would reduce the maximum penalty for murder to life without the possibility of parole.

Taxpayers have spent about $4 billion in expenses related to California's capital cases since its reinstatement - working out to more than $300 million for each execution, according to a 2011 analysis by federal judge Arthur Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell. They called the state's death-penalty system "a debacle" - with its costs expected to reach $9 billion by 2030.

Donald Heller, an attorney who authored a 1978 ballot initiative that greatly expanded the definition of capital crimes, has become a prominent advocate for repealing the death penalty. Heller said he wrote the measure to meet constitutional muster - which it did - without analyzing its fiscal impact.

"I thought the ultimate punishment would save money and end victim grief with finality," he wrote in the Los Angeles Daily News. "I did not account for multiple defense lawyers, expert witnesses including scientists, jury consultants and investigators; nor did I consider the cost of countless appeals and habeas corpus petitions." Among the many factors contributing to delays: a severe shortage of experienced death-penalty lawyers.

To streamline the process would require "a huge additional expenditure" that would include a special court for death penalty appeals, Heller noted.

And there are limits to how much the process can be expedited without elevating the risk of executing an innocent person.

It would be far wiser for California to concentrate its resources on the most indisputable deterrent to violent crime: raising the odds that a perpetrator will be found and convicted.

Prop. 34 advances that goal by directing most of the savings toward investigations of homicide and rape cases. Vote yes.

What it does

Key elements of Prop. 34:

-- Repeals death penalty and establishes life without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment for convicted murderers.

-- Applies retroactively to the more than 700 inmates on death row.

-- Directs $100 million from the savings to law enforcement agencies to help solve homicide and rape cases.

Source: Editorial, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 19, 2012

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