During last fall's election, we made clear our opposition to California's death penalty by favoring Proposition 34. We believed then, as today, that the state's death penalty is archaic, unfairly applied and, especially, a fiscal albatross. The voters of the state disagreed, and we respect that.
But the issue was thrust into the news again last week when an appeals court ruled that the state made "substantial" procedural errors in adopting its new lethal injection rules.
In 2006, a federal judge ruled the state's method of using a three-drug mixture to execute prisoners was cruel and unusual punishment. The state had been trying to settle on a method the court might find suitable, but Thursday an appeals court ruled that its procedure for doing so had misled the public.
For us, it renews the argument that maintaining the death penalty simply isn't worth the trouble. It makes much more sense to keep inmates in prison for life without parole.
We understand that death penalty crimes are always heinous, horrific and sickening. We also know that the surviving family and friends of the victims often have an overwhelming need for a punishment they hope will approximate the pain and suffering that was unwillingly inflicted upon them. And, yes, it is a pain that is so deep and so profound that only someone who has been through it can understand.
Many of them call the death penalty the ultimate justice; opponents call it vengeance. It is a matter of perspective.
What is not a matter of perspective is that 17 states and more than 135 nations have abolished capital punishment, and that not doing so places our state among the world's most noted human-rights abusers: Iraq, Iran, Libya, China, North Korea and Sudan.
But those are moral arguments that either resonate or they don't. For us, the most compelling argument against California's death penalty is that it simply doesn't work financially. Since it was reinstated in 1978, California has spent $4 billion on just 13 executions. That's more than $307 million per execution. We are no safer because of it.
The state currently has more than 700 inmates on death row. Shutting it down would put about $180 million back into the state general fund without affecting public safety.
Death penalty supporters often argue that the lengthy appeals that run up public costs should be cut short or ended. Alas, that is an argument for a different political system.
What seems so breathtakingly simple ignores the U.S. Constitution, more than 200 years of jurisprudence, not to mention the increasing evidence that innocent people have been executed. More than 130 inmates nationwide have been freed from death rows in the past 35 years, not because the courts are soft but rather that forensic evidence proves they were wrongly accused.
It is time for California to end capital punishment.