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1970 - Lagasse family helps save Mentryville buildings as Newhall and Malibu brush fires erupt & join into worst fire in SoCal history. Twelve fires over 10 days burn 525,000 acres, kill 13 people and destroy approx. 1,500 structures. [story]
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You Know I'm Right | Commentary by Betty Arenson
| Friday, Aug 8, 2014

bettyarensonSecond of two parts.


Last week I wrote about the controversy of those who believe in capital punishment and those who do not, and how neither side is able to convince the other their arguments are suitable.

The initial argument on the side of the opponents is that the death penalty makes the state as much of a killer as the convicted murderer. Also, that the penalty is improper because it’s just driven by revenge and is not really punishment.

I’m a total believer in America’s Constitution and its amendments as they stand today. With that, I cannot honestly argue that these convicted murderers do not have all of the afforded rights. It’s tough, but integrity must prevail.

Having said that, perhaps a lot of animus exists because we don’t have enough clarity on the boundaries, if any, that determine “rights.”

Yes, we must have due process. The accused, the defendant, irrespective of how much clear, adversary evidence exists, gets to plead “not guilty,” exercise every available “right” with counsel, and carry on.

Rights continue when, after a fair trial and a verdict is rendered, the (for the sake of this commentary’s subject) convicted murderer continues with appeals. Yes, he or she has that right.

It seems the disdain felt by many of us enters with decades and decades passing as defense lawyers tell us that either their guy or gal is really innocent, or if they are guilty, they should not pay with their life. This exhibition is exacerbated when pro-life groups step in with compassion for the guilty and absolutely none for the victim – the victim being dead, of course.

But what about the family and loved ones left behind?

I have yet to hear of one legislative proposal anywhere that calls for fast-tracking the criminal-case side as has been done on the civil side for decades. Set up a system to process these murderers, and if the outcome is that they will receive the ultimate penalty, then get it done. This circus has gone from death row inmates languishing with their “rights” for a decade to now 25 years in many cases.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney recently ruled against California’s death penalty when he overturned the death sentence for Ernest Dewayne Jones. Jones was sentenced to die for the 1992 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s mother, Julia Miller. This one, disastrous case could have very broad future weight.

Carney said: “There is no rational explanation, much less any moral or societal justification, for which people are ultimately executed. The execution of Mr. Jones, and others like him whose meritorious legal claims have gone unheard for decades, serves no valid state interest.”

I’ll bet large that the grieving families, left behind with big holes in their lives, would fervently disagree and be sickened by such detached, free-wheeling liberalism.

Carney’s reasoning seems ludicrous. He believes that all of the time delays result in constitutional violations relating to cruel and unusual punishment. Yes, these would be the same delays that result from murderers exercising their “rights.”

Old age is the biggest cause of death on death row. California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006 because courts stopped executions then. Carney said for every one death row inmate executed in California, seven others have died from natural causes.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is all warm and fuzzy with Carney’s decision. He concluded: “It further proves that the death penalty is broken beyond repair; it is exorbitantly costly, unfair and serves no legitimate purpose whatsoever. The only solution is to replace the death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole.”

There are at least two problems with your ivory-tower point of view. One, there is no such thing as a life without possibility of parole, because there will always be parole hearings and the swearing of “I’ve found God,” and decades down the road, some bureaucrat feel-gooder will let the murderer out.

Garcetti’s second problem is simply offensive – “unfair and serves no legitimate purpose whatsoever.”

Let’s ask the left-behind, grieving families about that.

Lastly, as we speak, “state officials” are at fever pitch to establish a new psychiatric hospital for death row inmates. Yes, all 720 men at San Quentin will get mental health screenings. It’s a result of a ruling in December by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton. No bureaucratic red-tape time delays here; the action is in full swing. Karlton’s ruling does not include 20 female prisoners at other locations with death sentences.

Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring opines, in considering the federal court ruling that people cannot be executed if they don’t mentally understand, “We are curing them to make them executable.”

“This is the only place on Earth where you’d be talking about building a psychiatric hospital for condemned prisoner,” Zimring said. “It is a measure of American greatness and American silliness at the same time.”



Betty Arenson has lived in the SCV since 1968 and describes herself as a conservative who’s concerned about progressives’ politics and their impacts on the country, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She says she is unashamed to own a gun or a Bible, couldn’t care less about the color of the president’s skin, and demands that he uphold his oath to protect and follow the Constitution of the United States in its entirety. Her commentary publishes Fridays.

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  1. It seems you’d be better suited talking about plastic surgery disasters, rather than life issues you know next to nothing about.

    • Brian Baker says:

      And perhaps the commenter would be better suited discussing the possibility of having a brain implant, rather than writing gratuitous and meaningless insults aimed at the columnist, who is clearly better educated and informed, and intellectually superior.

      It seems that’s the only bullet leftists have in their ammo belt: personal insults.

      Sadly for them, that one bullet is almost always a blank round.

      • Bill says:

        Oh no,this woman is neither better educated or well informed. First of all, you’re either “pro-life” for ALL or you’re not PRO LIFE. It’s impossible to be “PRO LIFE” for some and not others because then you really wouldn’t be “PRO LIFE”. Again, nice that she has the Bible but she should try dusting it off and reading it. Love hypocrites.

        • Brian Baker says:

          Oh, please. That doesn’t even pass the giggle test.

          You lefties always try to equate the death penalty and abortion, and it’s silly beyond description.

          When you can make an apples to apples comparison, THEN you may have a point.
          I’ll even give you the opportunity. Here it is. You ready?

          Name ONE aborted baby that committed a murder.

          I’ll await your answer with bated breath.

          Next time you want to talk about “hypocrites”, I suggest you hunt down a mirror first.

  2. J Schwartz says:

    I am against the death penalty for two reasons. First, it is not equally or equitably applied in all 50 states and there remains too high a percentage of innocent prisoners executed for crimes they did not commit. Execution is final and when we execute the innocent that is immoral.

    But my greater reason is, I’d rather let these monsters rot in prison with no hope of parole because taking their life is just too easy on them. You note that many of them constantly petition the state for new trials or other delaying tactics and that’s because they have hope, the hope that some parole board or technicality can let them out. We should continue to deny them that hope of freedom and let them live out their lives with that because that’s all these individuals really care about; regardless of claims they are seldom sorry they murdered someone, they remain sorry they were caught. This point was demonstrated again this week with the denial of parole by Gov. Brown (who I think is doing a pretty good job of it overall by the way) who denied yet again the parole of convicted Manson family murderer Bruce Davis. Yes, if it were me and I lost a family member to one of these monsters, I would be enraged to the point that my primal urge to take their life would be expressed, but I know would ultimately derive enormous satisfaction watching them plead for their freedom and see it denied. But that is probably just me.

  3. Brian Baker says:

    “… there remains too high a percentage of innocent prisoners executed for crimes they did not commit.”…..

    As far as I’m aware, that percentage in the modern era is zero.

    Do you have some other facts you’d like to submit?

    • J Schwartz says:

      Brian – Gladly. Generally no way to know for certain if an innocent man or woman was executed since most lawyers are reluctant to take up the research once a prisoner has been executed, and it depends on where you look.
      This site suggests it may be as few as 10 people:

      Per the Innocence Project:
      “Since 1977, some 553 people have been executed in the United States while another eighty death row inmates have been released after they were found innocent. For every seven executed, one innocent person is freed-an “error rate” of more than twelve (12) percent. In the State of Illinois, 12 people have been executed since 1977 while 13 have been released after proving their innocence-an error rate of 52 percent.”

      And this doesn’t even count the number of people on death rows that may innocent and have not had their cases investigated. In any case, these numbers play the smaller part of my reasoning. What are your facts?

      • Brian Baker says:

        Utter nonsense.

        “Generally no way to know for certain if an innocent man or woman was executed…”

        Or, in plain English, your claim that “… there remains too high a percentage of innocent prisoners executed for crimes they did not commit.” is pure speculation unsupported by any actual facts. Political posturing.

        Meaningless gibberish. Just as I wrote earlier.

        As to people who were later “found innocent”: in some of those cases, the system worked. If they actually WERE “innocent”, they weren’t executed, were they?

        And I’m aware of some of those cases in which the alleged “innocence” is based on recanted testimony years after the trials. In other words, we’re supposed to believe that the person who admits to lying at the time of trial is now telling the truth.

        Kind of a quandary, isn’t it? That person is an admitted liar and perjurer. So now the question becomes: WHEN were they lying and perjuring themselves? Then, at trial, or now?

        But the bottom line is this: you still haven’t presented a single fact proving that anyone in the modern era has been an “innocent prisoner executed for crimes they did not commit”.

  4. J Schwartz says:

    Meant to also add: if I appear to hold the state to a higher standard than the murderer, it is because it is the state’s obligation is to represent a higher legal and also moral authority in these matters. One life lost due to a failed or improper prosecution is intolerable diminishes us all.

  5. Brian Baker says:

    I’m going to take this one step further.

    If the alleged “innocent victim” is the only criterion we’re going to use to determine whether or not the death penalty should be maintained, then I submit we must also lower the freeway speed limits to 15 MPH, ban airline flights, ban ocean liners and ferries, and take all kinds of other drastic steps to protect “innocent” people from losing their lives “wrongfully”.

    The reality is that we accept the possibility of “innocent” deaths as a cost of realizing the benefits of all kinds of things.

    The Founders knew this when they wrote the Constitution, and even though the possibility of a “wrongfully” executed person was much greater back in that era, they specifically allowed the death penalty, as stated in the Fifth Amendment:

    “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury… nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”.

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