Prop. 66 is not the first “speed up the death penalty” proposition to pass in the last few years. Florida’s similar “fix” was tossed out by the courts as unconstitutional just a few months ago, and let’s hope this one meets a similar end.
What got me out of bed and into the office on Wednesday was this interview on ABC News, in which I express grave concerns for the deterioration in the quality of justice with the passage of 66. Capital punishment attorneys know: you cannot resolve a death row case in five years, and you certainly can’t do it in Superior Court. You cannot provide people adequate representation without pouring even more money into an already costly process.
This, by the way, is why Prop. 62 was a decent application of the ballot process and 66 was not. In The Forms and Limits of Adjudication, Lon Fuller distinguishes between monocentric and polycentric problems. I think that 62 is easily of the former variety: a simple yes/no question. 66 has a lot of moving parts (and funding) that are difficult for voters to understand. Even among my students, who are considerably better legally informed than the average voter, there were a few people who voted yes on both propositions, perhaps thinking that they could live with a death penalty “fix” one way OR the other. But it is hard to consider the ramifications of creating an entire system of reviewing huge cases with enormous consequences in lower courts and hiring new lawyers en masse to represent them (with what money???).
But I want to say something also to the families of victims, like Ms. Loya, who is interviewed in the newsstory.
Ms. Loya, I am so, so sorry for your loss. What terrible grief you must feel every day. Losing a loved one so violently is such a traumatic experience, and dealing with endless litigation on the part of the killer must be gut-wrenching.
When I hear you on TV, I worry, because I have heard from other victim families that fighting to get people killed faster intensifies the pain, fills you with soul-destroying feelings of revenge, and could compound your suffering in that this proposition could become the instrument of grave injustice.
Among the people whose executions could be expedited by this new law are people who are innocent of the crimes they committed–such as Shujaa Graham and Paris Powell, innocent men who spent long years on death row before their exonerations, and whom I met campaigning against Prop. 66. And these people also have mothers, like you, who will live to see their sons die violently, like you.
It is so hard to think beyond your personal pain. But I am so concerned about all this additional and unnecessary suffering this will bring to other people, just like you. I can’t see how this adds up to a net good in the world.
I feel for you and it breaks my heart to see you feel your loss so keenly after so many years. And at the same time, so that others will not know such losses at the hand of their government, I will continue to fight for the repeal of the death penalty in my lifetime.