True Permanent Imprisonment

Thursday, November 1, 2012
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As a retired 40-year law enforcement and criminal justice professional, including 24 years in the FBI, I strongly support California’s Proposition 34 to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole (true permanent imprisonment). While some of my professional law enforcement brethren disagree with me, the path to making this state safer is clear – stop wasting billions of dollars on the dysfunctional death penalty system, and put that money into more police officers and other local law-enforcement efforts to go after the epidemic of unsolved crimes.

The death penalty is actually much more expensive than a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. California taxpayers have spent $4 billion administering the death penalty in this state since it was reinstated in 1978. Yet, only 13 executions have been carried out in the same time period – a cost of $308 million per execution. Switching to permanent imprisonment will save the state $130 million every year, allowing for better funding of education and similar programs that prevent crime.

Police chiefs around the country agree with me. A recent survey of 500 randomly selected police chiefs nationwide reported: “The nation’s police chiefs rank the death penalty last in their priorities for effective crime reduction. The [chiefs] do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder, and they rate it as one of most inefficient uses of taxpayer dollars in fighting crime.” Even the state legislators who wrote our current death penalty have now come out against it – stating how dysfunctional the death penalty has become. They support Prop 34.

The death penalty is not a deterrent. During my career, I have encountered numerous murderers and not one of them ever gave any consideration to being caught, much less receiving the death penalty for their crimes. For years, the 17 states without a death penalty have experienced statistically lower murder rates across the board than do the 33 states still having one.

California is also at risk of executing an innocent person. Across the country, 141 death row inmates have been exonerated and released. In the past two decades, a total of over 870 prison inmates have been exonerated after wrongful convictions. California recently earned the dubious distinction of being the leader, nationwide, in wrongful convictions and exonerations with 200 on the record. It is presumptuous for us to think that of the 729 people currently on our death row, not one of them is factually innocent. The evidence convincingly illustrates the contrary.

My opinion on the death penalty has changed over the years, and I have seen all sides of this issue. I personally participated in convicting the killers of two supermarket clerks and sending them to death row in Texas. I also lost a family member to homicide, and that killer has never been found. Now, looking back on my 40 year career, I can see the issue with a clear head: The death penalty does not work. It is broken beyond repair, and must be replaced.

It’s time for justice that works for everyone. It’s time to help this state save billions of dollars. It’s time to make sure we never execute an innocent person. It’s time to Vote “Yes” on Proposition 34!

om Parker is a former California police officer, former member of the Santa Barbara Fire and Police Commission, and FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Los Angeles (Retired)


Independent Discussion Guidelines

My son is a murdered California police officer whose killer is one of the 43 death row cop killers. I am proud to be part of the No on 34 campaign to preserve our death penalty. There are 225 child victims of death row killers, including five children under the age of 23 months who died because their tiny bodies couldn't handle being raped and sodomized. The death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst murders. Only two percent of incarcerated murderers are on death row.

The change to life without parole (lwop) is a charade. Look at the recently passed SB9 which allows killers who killed when they were 16 or 17 and subsequently sentenced to lwop to have multiple sentencing hearings (5) to modify their sentence. Lwop is only lwop as long as the state legislature says it is, or voters redefine it, or a governor grants clemency.

Former governors Pete Wilson. George Deukmeijan, and Gray Davis all appeared at a press conference in Los Angeles on October 30th in a bipartisan opposition to the repeal of the death penalty. Each of these former governors urged votors to Vote No on 34.

Prop 34 is deceptive when it promises to put death row inmates to work. That law is already on our books, but corrections will always have the right to determine the security risk an inmate may pose. If the promised 100 million to law enforcement is so good, why is every major law enforcement agency in California against Prop 34? That money would come from our general fund, there is no guarantee it isn't redirected money rather than new money, and if evenly distributed among all the police agencies would only amount to funding each agency a detective for 11 days.

The California Police Chiefs Association, the California Sheriffs Association, the Highway Patrol Association, the California District Attorneys Association, Police Officers Association and Deputy Sheriffs Associations throughout the state, and victims groups and advocates all urge voters to preserve the death penalty and vote No on 34.

PhyllisLoya (anonymous profile)
November 1, 2012 at 9:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The people that argue it costs too much and it takes too long are the folks that created the delays and upped the costs . Now they seek to abolish it by saying it is too expensive. It is like someone who murders his parents and then pleads for mercy because he is an orphan.

One of the most ironic arguments they make is that death row inmates have too many privileges and are coddled but this law would change that and make them work. These same folks filed suits to get most of those privileges. I would be happy to take away their single cells, televisions, limit their visits, and third party access to internet web sites where they can troll for pen pals and potential patsies. However, if I did that Natasha Pinsker and her ACLU buddies would be filing a lawsuit the next day. By the way, the law about inmates working has been on the books for many years and Prop 34 adds nothing to it.

The voters need to look around. Prison realignment isn't working. How many people have to be murdered? How many communities have to be ravaged by crime? The ACLU and friends who are the driving force behind Prop 34 have an agenda: abolish death penalty, abolish life without possibility of parole, and shorten sentences. Give them an inch, they will take a mile.

When the writer argues that Prop 34 is justice for everyone, he does not speak for me and hundreds of other victims I have worked with to defend the death penalty. The justice we want is the justice California juries and judges that heard all the evidence gave us. Once appellate remedies have been exhausted, the sentence should be carried out.

The writer's anaylis regarding the costs of the death penalty is flawed. He divides the 4 billion by the thirteen executed, but that four billion covers the trial costs of more than 700 murderers on death row, and the costs of direct appeals for the majority of them. However, that mathematical deception is routinely used by the Yes on 34 folks, and I am sure that they gave him those figures. With his long history of public service, I wish he had visited our web site and gotten our facts and viewpoint.

Less than one percent of the annual budget for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is spent on death row inmates. The death penalty needs amending, not ending.

PhyllisLoya (anonymous profile)
November 1, 2012 at 9:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

As much as I still feel that having the death penalty means innocent people can get executed, (and as such--and for that reason only, I still oppose it) I can understand why so many people support it.

I remember the nightmare of Malcom Joseph Robbins, who admitted to kidnapping, raping, and killing Christopher Finney after abducting the boy on father's day 1980. Robbins' lawyer, Jake Stoddard, managed to get the death sentence, (no doubt Robbins committed the crime, so I had/have no problem with the sentence) down to life without parole, but it didn't stop there. Eventually he got the court to bring it down to 25 years to life which meant Robbins could have gotten out by the time he was 43 years old. (Under those circumstances, he could have served as little as 16 years)

Two more similar convictions followed and George Dukemajian was elected governor and the tide was turning against the reign of Rose Bird--who was then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California. (Bird and two others were eventually recalled by popular vote in 1986 by a margin of 67 to 33 percent. In addition to Bird, Reynoso and Grodin were also voted off the seven-justice California state supreme court bench.) I don't remember the year, but shortly after Dukemajian was sworn in Robbins' death sentence was reinstated and he sits on death row to this day.

It should be noted that this happened in arguably the most liberal state in California.

So here I sit, still opposed to the death penalty because of my fear of innocent people getting killed, yet thanks to unscrupulous defense attorneys and ideologues who are convinced that people such as Malcom Joseph Robbins and other like him are fit to walk the streets, there is still much support of this institution.

Perhaps if those opposed to the death penalty also made sure that psychopaths were kept off the street their efforts to oppose the death penalty would be successful.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 1, 2012 at 1:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"It should be noted that this happened in arguably the most liberal state in California." @billclausen

It can be argued but it's not true. There are, 8 or 9 states with a voting history more liberal than CA's.

"Perhaps if...psychopaths were kept off the street their efforts to oppose the death penalty would be successful." @billclausen

Have you read, "The Psychopath Test", listened to This American Life #436, watched Jon Ronson's talk on or read any books about psycopathy? I think with a little research you would use the term psychopath with more care, have a better understanding of the efforts already in place to keep psychopaths off of the streets and will better understand the pitfalls that accompany those efforts.

Relevant case studies. Poor conclusion.

Kingprawn (anonymous profile)
November 1, 2012 at 2:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you, Phyllis. Well stated.

Scooter (anonymous profile)
November 1, 2012 at 3:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dear random never before posters who wont replay cause they don't exist despite their kids being murdered after being raped and long time FBI agents who we are supposed to take their word for their resume......Hope you are being paid well by your PAC.

This is a managerial accounting problem in a state with a budget crisis, not a moral problem. Life in prison $ < death penalty $.

Stumbling_Distance (anonymous profile)
November 1, 2012 at 9:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Kingprawn: While I am willing to concede that you may well be right about California not being the most liberal state, I will take issue with your other comment.

Per your comment about what a psychopath is: I will present this link as supporting my claim the Robbins displayed all the behavior of a psychopath, to wit:

I will conclude my presentation by pointing out that clearly there are those in the legal profession who would have such a person walking the streets, as Jake Stoddard came very close to being successful in doing.

@Stumbling_Distance: The following link has a number of links to stories about Phyllis Loya which indicate she is a real person whose son was murdered.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 2, 2012 at 2:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 2, 2012 at 2:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Your original conclusion was about "psychopaths" and whether or not they were being kept off of the streets. It was a general statement about psychopaths.

It is believed that psychopaths make up about 1% of the general population and about 40% of the prison population. You may arrive at a different conclusion than the one above with some research into the way the Psycopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R)(Hare, 2003) is used to keep people from being eligible for parole (whether or not they are indeed a psychopath).

Your more recent comment references a specific individual whom you have diagnosed with psycopathy (I am not saying you're wrong but you are bold to do so without any training) and his attorney.

I appreciate you being more specific. IMO generalities tend to dumb-down the conversation.

Kingprawn (anonymous profile)
November 2, 2012 at 8:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In 20 years they'll be saying "it's too expensive to keep these murderers and rapists locked up."

Scooter (anonymous profile)
November 2, 2012 at 10:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow. I was shocked by Stumbling Distance's assertion that I was not a real person. I am certainly not the person I was before April 23, 2005 which is the day my son was shot in the line of duty. That day changed my life forever. The two hollowpoint bullets that killed my son killed a part of me and everyone that cared for my sons. I am a ghost of myself, but I am real enough to be posting comments and fighting to preserve justice for my son and the other victims of death row killers.

If Stumbling Distance has any doubts that I exist, maybe he can meet me next May 5th and 6th of 2013 when I will be in Sacramento at the Law Enforcement Memorial ceremonies.

I was filmed most recently in Los Angeles at a press conference on October 30th when former governors Wilson, Deukmijean, and Davis gave bipartisan support to preserve the death penalty. Here is the link if he needs further proof.

PhyllisLoya (anonymous profile)
November 2, 2012 at 10:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You were trolled, Phyllis. Don't think about what SD said for another second. Welcome to the internet.

Kingprawn (anonymous profile)
November 2, 2012 at 12:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

But you really ARE a giant shrimp, right Kingprawn?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 2, 2012 at 2:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"I am not a shrimp, I am a king prawn!!!" -Pepe

Kingprawn (anonymous profile)
November 2, 2012 at 2:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

PROP. 34: The Truth Will Kill It
Dudley Sharp

An honest discussion about Prop 34 would result in its overwhelming defeat.


Are the cost claims made by the pro Prop 34 folks reliable (1)? No.

The ACLU cost review was easily destroyed (1) and Mitchell and Alarcon, of the $4 billion study infamy, refuse to share their database (1), which we can presume has problems and, therefore, no one can, responsibly, depend upon that review.

Is it possibly that life without parole (LWOP) may cost more than the death penalty? Yes (1).

Is it required that California citizens allow their representatives to be so irresponsible with both their state budget and death penalty management? Of course not.

Virginia has executed 75% of those sentenced to death and has done so within 7.1 years, on average.

All states, inclusive of California, could implement similar protocols and save money over LWOP.


Is it true that innocents are better protected by a death penalty protocol? Yes, in three different ways (2). Innocents are more at risk without the death penalty (2).


Ask the media (or insert any industry) this question.

How principled are you?

If you had a group of corrupt people, who only wanted to shut down the media, by sabotaging the media, would you say, OK, shut down all media?

Or would you say, let's clean it up, get you bad folks out of the picture, and make it work?

A vote for Prop 34 is a vote for folks who have intentionally obstructed justice in these cases, meaning anti death penalty legislators, the defense bar and judges who have made the death penalty so irresponsible and who are the same folks telling us to reward them by giving them what they have been working for, based upon the horrible system they have engineered.

A better idea.

How about demanding a responsible system, such as Virginia's, whereby 75% of those sentenced to death have been executed within 7.1 years, on average - a system similar to what Ca should have, if responsible folks were in charge.

Calif has executed 1.4% of those sentenced because such mismanagement is what such obstructionists (read Prop 34) had in mind.


In addition, 80% of US folks support the death penalty for, truly, "death penalty eligible" murders (3), just as from 56% to 83% have also supported the death penalty when, wrongly, asked about their approval for the death penalty for murders, for which about 90% are not death penalty eligible (3).


dudleysharp (anonymous profile)
November 5, 2012 at 9:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)


1) California Death Penalty Cost "Studies"

2) a) The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives

b) Innocents More At Risk Without Death Penalty

3) US Death Penalty Support at 80%; World Support Remains High

dudleysharp (anonymous profile)
November 5, 2012 at 9:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Phyllis, you do exist, and ignore the comments by the trolls. You have suffered a family tragedy no one should have to face, but the man writing the article against the death penalty has suffered the same tragedy. Victims deserve a voice, but not the sole right to determine punishment.
Let's look at the facts.
The relevant factor to determine cost is per execution, not per death sentence. Those with death sentences who are never executed are, in fact, serving life without parole sentences. Since California executes one inmate every three years, only about 20 of the 725 on death row will be executed before they all die. Even now, three times as many convicts on death row have died of natural causes as have been executed.
Cost per execution, 4 billion/13 = 307 million per execution. But even cost per death sentence, 4 billion/ 725, is over $5 million per death sentence, which is highly unlikely to be carried out.
You say less than one percent of the CDCR budget goes to maintaining death row. What is your source? I haven't seen "death row expenses" as a line in their budget. Plus, of course, one percent of their budget is over $100,000, so the prison system by itself is spending $300,000 on death row per execution.
Gov. Brown says there are no innocent on death row, so it's a fact. If Gov. Brown said there may be innocent on death row, would that be a fact? There are mistakes made in convictions due to mistaken eyewitness testimony, or intentional or unintentional police or prosecutor misconduct. 75% of the convictions reversed by DNA were mistaken eyewitness identifications. Crimes without DNA left by the suspect are much harder to prove as innocent. A study of every homicide conviction in California over ten years showed that the highest rate of death sentencing occurs in counties with low population densities and a high proportion of non-Hispanic whites. Those who kill whites are over three times more likely to be sentenced to die as those who kill African-Americans or Hispanics.

FrankLangben (anonymous profile)
November 6, 2012 at 8:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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