So says murderer Douglas Stankewitz, who's been on death row for 34 years, thanks to repeated delays caused by collateral appeals. (He had carjacked 22-year-old newlywed Theresa Graybeal at a Kmart parking lot in Modesto, drove her around, and then shot her in the head as he stopped the car to buy heroin.) The California death penalty is on the ballot as Prop 34; proponents are, with impressive chutzpah, now using the cost of defending against these appeals as an argument for abolition rather than as an argument for replacing the judges who abuse the law. Nevertheless, polls show that voters disapprove of the measure to abolish capital punishment by 13 points. [Reuters via The Transom]
The Reuters story repeats many of the same statistics I previously discussed here from an AP story. What it doesn't mention is that the arguments about "increased cost" are entirely bogus. The litigation costs from life without parole will not be any cheaper than the litigation costs from the death penalty. As I've argued here before:
[The] cost argument just simply [isn't] true. If the death penalty disappeared tomorrow, the hundreds of lawyers who fight the death penalty wouldn't rest on their laurels. They'd simply shift their focus to other attacks on the use of criminal justice to punish criminals. Governments would still be spending the same millions of dollars defending against collateral attacks on convictions; they'd just be spending it on a different set of convicted criminals. Any monetary savings from abolishing capital punishment would be illusory.
This prediction has been borne out by recent successful challenges to life without parole such as Miller v. Alabama and Graham v. Florida.