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'Rose Bird Under Attack'

September 07, 1986

I am one who believes in the death penalty for anyone who deliberately and consciously kills another person, but I strongly oppose voting out of office those members of the Supreme Court who are presently up for confirmation.

Unfortunately, the California Constitution, unlike the U.S. Constitution, requires judges to face the elective process, thus weakening the respected principle of an independent judiciary. The federal courts, like the courts of England and other civilized countries, have judges who are appointed for life and are therefore independent to interpret the law without fear of popular hysteria and passing political fashions.

If you want judges who interpret the law to the best of their abilities and not with their eyes on the ballot box, then vote to confirm Justices Bird, Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin.

If you want California Supreme Court justices who follow the opinion polls instead of the rule of law, then vote against them, and perhaps go a step further and try to change the California Constitution so a committee of legislators replaces the court. After all, who is better attuned to the will of the majority as expressed through elections and opinion polls than the politicians we so often hear reviled as unprincipled and spineless opportunists?

How can I be for the death penalty and support these justices who, together with enough others to make a majority, have often ruled to overturn death sentences? Because I think the death penalty law was so poorly drawn by thoughtless and hasty draftsmen that it is self-contradictory and often in conflict with the U.S. Constitution, which the California Supreme Court must also uphold.

The solution is not to destroy the independent judgment of the California Supreme Court justices; the solution is to support thoughtful amendments to the legislation that mandates the death penalty. Then any intelligent court can apply the law so that those who set no value on the human life of others shall thereby place the value of their own life at nil and pay the same penalty they extracted from their victims.

JOHN J. WERNER

San Diego

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