Tuesday, May 17, 2011

L.A. District Attorney Continues To Ignore The Trend On The Death Penalty

By James Clark, originally published at Change.org, May 16, 2011

While most of California is talking about repealing the state’s dysfunctional death penalty, prosecutors in Los Angeles seem blissfully unaware of the problems associated with all the men and women being sent to death row from their county.

While most counties in the state don’t seek the death penalty at all (some couldn’t afford it if they wanted to), LA continues to lead the pack of those that do – at an enormous expense to the county budget.
But now there is a groundswell of grassroots support for ending the wasteful policy of seeking death. 

So far over 500 people have signed the petition and 25 organizations and community groups have passed the resolution calling on DA Steve Cooley to stop seeking death in LA County!'

With death sentences dropping around the state and nation, 16 states and Puerto Rico without the death penalty and four states having repealed in as many years, it’s a wonder Cooley can’t read the writing on the walls. He knows—and if he doesn’t he should— that each time his office seeks a death sentence the county pays $1 million more than if they had sought life without parole – and if they secure that death sentence, they’ve also sentenced taxpayers statewide to an annual bill of over $100,000 more than a sentence of life without parole.

In 2010, 8 of California’s 28 death sentences came from LA County – for perspective, not only is that the highest in California, it’s also the second highest of any county in the nation (behind the 10 death sentences racked up in Maricopa County, Arizona), and it’s the same as the number of death sentences throughout the entire state of Texas for the same period.

Not to mention it cost the LA County budget at least $8 million.

Each time the DA decides to seek death, the prosecutors, defense attorneys, investigators, even judges and juries all spend significantly more time and resources on a single case. If instead the DA sought life without the possibility of parole, the savings would be seen throughout the criminal justice process: trials could be resolved faster, the expertise of the most experienced attorneys and investigators could be lent to more cases, and victims’ families wouldn’t wait 25 years or more for the case to be over.

And not to belabor the point, but we’d also save those millions and millions of dollars.

As more people sign the petition and more organizations pass the resolution telling Steve Cooley to stop seeking death in their name, residents in the county should also look to the not-so-distant future: LA’s next District Attorney will be elected next year and the candidates have already begun to line up. Feel free to drop them a line to ask what they think of the death penalty and how much of the county’s budget they plan to spend on it if elected.


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