Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Friday, October 28, 2016

California Death Penalty Propositions Aim To Fix Broken System In Different Ways

California Death Penalty Propositions Aim To Fix Broken System In Different Ways

October 21, 2016 10:45 AM

SACRAMENTO- On Nov. 8 California voters have a chance to change the course of history when it comes to capital punishment. Is California ready to get rid of the death penalty? Or is the solution to speed up the process leading to executions? Both options are on next month’s ballot.

Supporters of both Proposition 62 and Proposition 66 agree that the system is broken, that it doesn’t bode well for victims families or the state.

CBS13 takes a closer look at Prop 66 and why so many families are fighting to keep the death penalty alive.

It’s been 20 years since Sandy Friend lost her little boy, Michael. Michael would have been 29 today if he were still alive, but on May 16, 1996 when he was just eight years old, Michael was abducted.

“He was just a little boy, an innocent defenseless child,” said Friend.

Michael was kidnapped as he was walking home from school in Yuba City, by a man named Robert Rhoades.

“It was only two blocks to our house, and at that time, this individual, this monster, he was registered as a twice-convicted sex offender, and he was living in our communities,” said Friend.

Rhoades lured Michael in by asking him for directions. He then sexually assaulted and tortured the boy, stabbing him 60 to 70 times, making sure to keep him alive for 10 hours.

“He put a knife in Michael and twisted it, over and over again.”

For years, in and out of the court room, Sandy and her family and five girls fought for justice, until finally Rhoades was sentenced to death.

Friend says “he is pure evil and if anybody in this state, has any residual thought that the death penalty is inhumane, they need to listen to the true victims.

“I’ve seen these cases, met these families, they are the worst of the worst,” said Sacramento District Attorney Ann Marie Schubert.

Schubert says the death penalty is reserved for the most egregious crimes like Michael’s murder. But she adds with 749 people sitting on death row right now, it’s time to mend a broken system

“It shouldn’t take 25-30 years to get through a sentence, cause it’s a disservice to victims of those crimes, and it’s a disservice to criminal justice as a whole,” said Schubert.

Now Prop. 66 aims to fix the flaws. But how? The measure would shorten the time of appeals that challenge death sentences to a maximum of five years by eliminating excessive reviews.

“Our goal is to complete the state court process within 5 years. Is that a hard and fast rule? No. Do we think it’s gonna happen right away? No. But we have to have some timeline, so start somewhere,” said Schubert.

The measure would
  • Expand the pool of available defense lawyers so that every person on death row has council assigned faster and more effectively.
  • Trial courts that know these cases best would handle the initial appeals.
  • Supporters say Prop. 66 will insurance due process by never limiting claims of actual innocence
  • The proposition would also allow condemned inmates to be housed at any state prison and not just in the maximum-security, San Quentin facility.
“Prop. 66 is about justice, and carrying out justice in a reasonable period of time,” said Kent Scheidegger, legal director for Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento.

According to the Legislative Analyst Office, there are added costs with expanding the attorney pool, but the measure could save prison costs in the tens of millions each year. The overall cost savings of Prop. 66 is unknown.

“There is a sense of finality, a sense
 that it is truly over, when the sentence is carried out, where you don’t have with a life sentence,” said Scheidegger.

He adds, that there are currently about 18 inmates on death row right now who have completed all their reviews. So if Prop. 66 passes, those executions could happen as early as a couple months.

Meanwhile Sandy Friend hopes voters will vote to keep the death penalty alive, so that convicts like Rhoades who killed her little boy, don’t just die of old age.

“Sitting in his cell, getting fed everyday, being warm, going to sleep watching TV, talking to his family….my girls can’t talk to Michael, they can’t see him, we go to a headstone.”

If both Prop. 62 and Prop. 66 win at the polls next month, the one with the more votes would become law.

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