LaMalfa: Kill ’em all

Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, joined victims’ rights groups and the Sacramento County district attorney this week in voicing opposition to a bill that would install a three-year moratorium on state-sponsored executions.

“Instead of renovating the Death Row unit at San Quentin as planned,” LaMalfa said in a press release, “we should empty it as prescribed by hundreds of juries that have found these violent killers guilty, warranting the highest possible penalty available, that of capital punishment.”

The bill, AB 1121, would establish a commission to study and review whether the death penalty has been administered fairly and if there have been wrongful executions of innocent people in the 30 years since executions were reinstated in California.

The three-year moratorium would be in place during the duration of the study. The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice would also look for ways to provide safeguards and improve the way the state’s criminal justice system operates.

The study must be completed and the recommendations made by the end of 2007, according to the bill, co-authored by Paul Koretz, D-Hollywood and Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View.

The bill’s supporters point to a June 2000 Field Poll that says 73 percent of Californians support a moratorium on the death penalty while its application, accuracy and fairness are studied.

LaMalfa, on the other hand, points to voter approval in 1976 of Proposition 17, which reinstated the death penalty, suspended four years earlier by the state Supreme Court as cruel and unusual punishment, commuting the sentences of the state’s 107 death row inmates. Prop. 17 required mandatory death sentences for all defendants found guilty of first-degree murder. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory death sentences were unconstitutional.

A year later, state voters passed Prop. 7, which broadened the definition of death penalty-eligible offenses to include non-intentional killings and accomplices to murder.

“Defying time and again the voice and will of the people, this time on the overwhelmingly passed death penalty initiative, causes people to think their voice and vote don’t count.”

Today 648 inmates sit on California’s death row, more by far than any other state.

The bill was approved in the Assembly Public Safety Committee Jan. 10. It now moves on to a finance committee.