A flawed punishment

By not abandoning the death penalty, California remains in the ranks of nations like China, Iran and North Korea

Recent reports that convicted double-murderer Joseph Wood of Arizona spent two hours gasping for breath before finally dying underscores the brutality of capital punishment. This followed yet another botched execution back in April of a convicted murderer in Oklahoma. In that case, an autopsy of Clayton Lockett revealed that the IV used to administer a lethal injection had been improperly placed.

These are not isolated incidents. There have been a number of problems with administering death by lethal injection in the United States in recent years, mostly because of difficulty obtaining the drugs necessary to perform executions.

We’d like to, once again, urge Californians to abandon the death penalty. It cannot be applied humanely. It cannot be applied in a timely fashion. Study after study has shown that it is never applied fairly: Some level of racial and economic bias is endemic to the practice. What’s more, thanks to programs like the Innocence Project, we’ve seen many people freed from death row once evidence that they were not guilty surfaced.

And it doesn’t work. While some relatives of victims demand it, the death penalty will not provide closure.

There are practical reasons, as well, for abandoning it, including the fact that doing so would unclog a court system that is jammed to the point of dysfunction with death-penalty appeals.

Americans seem to be coming around to the fact that capital punishment is flawed. In 1996, 78 percent favored the death penalty, while 18 percent were opposed; that gap narrowed in 2013 to 55 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

There’s simply no good reason for California to remain in the ranks of nations like Iran, North Korea and China. We need to abandon the death penalty altogether.