Death penalty is ‘inherently flawed’

California should follow Illinois’ example and abolish it

Last month, Gov. Patrick Quinn of Illinois, a Democrat, signed a bill making his state the 16th to abolish the death penalty. It was a fitting conclusion to an 11-year moratorium on executions instituted following revelation of law-enforcement and judicial abuses that cost innocent inmates their lives.

In a statement, the governor declared that his state’s system for applying the death penalty was “inherently flawed” and that “it is impossible to devise a system that is consistent, that is free of discrimination on the basis of race, geography or economic circumstance, and that always gets it right.”

What’s true for Illinois is true for California. And there are other, practical reasons for abolishing the death penalty here: It would save the cash-starved state more than $1 billion over the next five years and, at the same time, unclog a court system that is jammed to the point of dysfunction with death-penalty appeals.

Currently there are more than 700 residents on death row in California. Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated, only 13 people have been executed, and executions are now on hold due to a lack of the chemicals used in lethal injections.

This is a system flawed on every level—practically as well as morally. It’s time to do what Illinois did: convert those death sentences to life without possibility of parole.