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Death row and politics

Letters on letters

November 03, 2012
  • California's Proposition 34 would shutter the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison, pictured above.
California's Proposition 34 would shutter the death chamber at San… (Los Angeles Times )

From afar, California in a presidential election year is defined by and largely written off because of its color: not golden but deep, Democratic blue. This perception, however, doesn't do justice to the contests taking place in the state.

Over the last several months, readers have sent The Times hundreds of letters weighing the 11 initiatives on the Nov. 6 ballot. The discussion has been spirited, especially on Proposition 30 (Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase) and Proposition 34 (which would do away with the death penalty). Not surprisingly, those letters have drawn more letters.

More than a dozen readers responded to two recent election-related letters in The Times — a former L.A. County deputy district attorney's defense of the death penalty and a libertarian think-tank lawyer's case for keeping an out-of-state campaign donor anonymous. Here is a selection of those rebuttals.

—Paul Thornton, letters editor

Re "Prop. 34 flaw," Letters, Oct. 31

Richard de la Sota, a former L.A. County deputy district attorney, argues that we need the death penalty to punish people already serving life terms who murder while in prison. He assumes the death penalty will actually be imposed. But in California, it won't be.

A death sentence is really just life in prison, only with unending — and very expensive — litigation. The appeals go through the state courts and then get stuck in federal courts, over which California has no control.

We have had 13 executions since 1977. Despite the herculean efforts of our state prosecutors, inmates on death row are far more likely to die of natural causes. While I agree these people deserve to die, there is no way California can make capital punishment work. We're wasting our money.

Barry Carlton

El Cajon

Re "Give the voters some credit," Letters, Oct. 27

Paul Sherman implies that requiring political donors to disclose their identities insults voters' intelligence. This is a pretty low-brow argument for someone who litigates campaign disclosure cases nationwide.

With any political issue, one can pull out a kernel of truth without providing context and mislead those who can't or won't investigate the facts on their own. Ideally, everyone would study the issues, but we don't live in an ideal world. So we get policy that hurts most of us based on intentional misrepresentation by the few who will benefit from it.

The identities of those who pay for political ads are useful shorthand for understanding the motivation behind the policy. If someone exercises outsized influence on our government because that person has outsized resources, we deserve to know who that person is. If you don't want your identity disclosed, just vote like the rest of us.

Branden Frankel

Encino

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