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Salinas council takes bold stand on death penalty • Friday May 9, 2003

Californian, May 9, 2003

“If they’re innocent and dying, then the blood is on our hands.”
– Jyl Lutes, Salinas Mayor Pro Tem

The Salinas City Council supports a moratorium on the death penalty in California — and with good reason.

The death penalty is a barbaric human rights violation, rejected by a growing number of civilized countries.

America’s severely flawed ‘justice system’ has a lengthy record of wrongful convictions.

100+ innocent people have been rescued from death row.

The USA is among the very few countries that executes the mentally ill or child offenders.

That reason — Ray Krone, 46, a former Arizona death-row inmate — stood before the council on Tuesday as living proof that the nation’s death penalty process is flawed and tragically has executed innocent people.

In August 2002, Krone became the 100th death-row inmate to be freed in the United States since 1973. He was released after DNA testing found he had been wrongfully convicted of a woman’s murder in Phoenix in 1991.

Mounting evidence of a flawed death penalty system is worth reviewing:

For every execution carried out in California in the past 15 years, seven death sentences were set aside because of judicial errors, according to a newspaper study. Judges, prosecutors, even defense lawyers are making mistakes.

A Columbia University study, “A Broken System, Part II: Why There Is So Much Error in Capital Cases, and What Can Be Done About It,” concludes that the nation’s death penalty system is “collapsing under the weight” of errors.

A review of death penalty judgments over a 23-year period found a national error rate of 68 percent. We’re getting it wrong two out of every three times.

That’s why Salinas residents should applaud the bold stand taken by their city council members for a moratorium. It’s not taken for or against the death penalty, but in support of an immediate halt to injustice and wrongful death.

Of the 50 states, California has the most inmates on death row — 600. Ten inmates have been executed since the state reinstituted the death penalty in 1978. Five Monterey County convicts are now on death row.

Arguably, some of these inmates deserve to be there and, as the evidence shows, some of them don’t. California’s execution process is replete with errors and inconsistencies. Gov. Gray Davis, who supports the death penalty, is being urged to call for a moratorium. He must abide by the will of reasonable citizens — and city councils — who may disagree with him but who see the need for action.

Moratorium supporters cross the political spectrum from liberal to moderate to conservative. The moratorium campaign was launched in January 2002 when Illinois Republican Gov. George Ryan stopped executions there.

In Salinas, the City Council has shown the political courage to join the chorus of voices that say there is no room for error when carrying out the death penalty.

For that, give them credit for doing the right thing — urging a halt to executions until a broken system is fixed.

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