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Jump-Starting California's Death Penalty

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Howard Mintz has this story in the San Jose Mercury-News:

With California voters readying to consider whether to retain the death penalty, two prominent district attorneys, including San Mateo County's, are mounting a rebel legal campaign to kick-start executions in San Quentin's long-dormant death chamber.

Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley has been heading the charge, moving in recent months to sidestep legal obstacles that have put executions on hold for nearly seven years and secure execution dates for condemned killers Mitchell Sims and Tiequon Cox.

But San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe has quietly joined in, asking a local judge to set an execution date for Robert Green Fairbank, sent to death row for the 1985 murder of a San Francisco woman.

The legal gambit is spurred by some prosecutors' mounting frustration with Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, who instead of rushing to resume executions have focused on fighting state and federal court orders that froze executions because of flaws in the prison system's three-drug execution procedures. The state, in fact, assured a federal judge two years ago that there would be no attempts to execute inmates until those legal battles were resolved.

"Prosecutors and victims' advocates throughout the state are indeed frustrated with the failure of the (state) to get this process moving," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

A Los Angeles judge on Monday is expected to hear the latest round of arguments in Cooley's maneuver, and a San Mateo judge will consider the Fairbank case in October, not long before voters decide the fate of Proposition 34 --the first time Californians have been asked to abolish the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1978.

In court papers, Wagstaffe and Cooley argue that California can execute inmates with a single drug, avoiding the legal stalemate over the state's botched attempts to retain its three-drug method. Other states such as Washington, Arizona and Ohio have adopted that approach.

Good article overall, but I was taken aback by this statement:

With more than 720 murderers on death row, Fairbank, Cox and Sims are in a select group of about a dozen inmates who have run out of legal options to avoid execution. All that stands in the way of lethal injections for them are several court orders that have blocked executions -- and legal experts say the two prosecutors' arguments will not get them past those orders.

Huh?  What experts?  The only people quoted for that proposition are other lawyers in the case, no more "expert" than the ones on our side.

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The arguments in support of the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty are exaggerated at best and, in most cases, misleading and erroneous. Proposition 34 is being funded primarily by a wealthy company out of Chicago, the ACLU, and similarly-oriented trust funds. It includes provisions that would only make our prisons less safe for both other prisoners and prison officials and significantly increase the costs to taxpayers due to life-time medical costs, the increased security required to coerce former death-row inmates to work, etc. The amount “saved” in order to help fund law enforcement is negligible and only for a short period of time. Bottom line, the “SAFE” Act is an attempt by those who are responsible for the high costs and lack of executions to now persuade voters to abandon it on those grounds. Obviously, these arguments would disappear if the death penalty was carried forth in accordance with the law. Get the facts at and supporting evidence at http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com and http://waiting4justice.org/.

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