FORMER LA COUNTY DA EXPLAINS WHY THE DEATH PENALTY SHOULD BE ABOLISHED
Former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti explains why he is now in favor of Prop. 34 and the abolition of the death penalty. Garcetti is hardly soft on the issue—his office pushed for the death penalty more aggressively than any other county’s DA office.
Here’s a clip from Garcetti’s op-ed for the SF Gate:
…The costs of this dysfunctional system are staggering. There’s special housing, legal teams and a double trial process, among other costs. The Office of the Legislative Analyst in California found that replacing it with life in prison without parole could save us $130 million every year.
We are on track to spend $1 billion on this broken system over the next five years. All for what? Most inmates die of old age. We need to stop the waste wherever we can. We need that money for police and teachers, not a Death Row that exists in name only.
And a sinister problem lurks with the death penalty: the possible execution of an innocent person. I’d like to think that not one innocent person has been sentenced to death in California, but the truth is, we don’t know. The only way to be sure we will never make an irreversible mistake is to vote yes on Proposition 34 in November.
MINORITY ARREST RATES MISREPRESENTED BY SF POLICE DEPARTMENT
The San Francisco Police Department has been misreporting minority arrests for at least thirteen years, labeling Latinos as “white” and Asians as “other.” Mislabeling Latinos boosts the number of Caucasians arrested, thus creating an illusion of near-equality in African American and Caucasian arrests. The discovery was made by the Bay Citizen, after crime data for 2010 was released by the CA Dept. of Justice.
The Citizen’s Shoshana Walter has the story. Here’s a clip:
The state has been publishing the erroneous statistics in a report called “Crime in California” since at least 1999, when the state Department of Justice first began posting the data online.
Because of the misclassifications, the department and federal and state officials have no accurate record of how often minorities are arrested in the city, creating skewed statistics and leading to widespread concern among local civil rights groups.
According to the reported data, African Americans are arrested at a much higher rate than whites. But by misclassifying Latinos, the department has inflated the number of whites arrested, indicating that the gap between the arrest rates for whites and blacks is even wider.
MAN RECEIVES EXCESSIVE SENTENCE OF 624 YEARS IN PRISON
An Alabama man was sentenced to 624 years in prison on Tuesday. While he is a violent offender, his outside sentences are representative of a trend in consecutive—rather than concurrent—sentences, resulting in terms that extend beyond multiple lifetimes. (For further reading: WitnessLA has previously posted on a non-violent offender’s 154-year sentence for multiple counts of the same crime.)
LA Times’ Amy Hubbard has the story. Here’s a clip:
In Tuesday’s sentencing, 25-year-old Mark Anthony Beecham was given 99 years each for six counts – first-degree kidnapping, two counts of first-degree rape and three counts of first-degree sodomy — plus 20 years for felony first-degree theft of property and 10 more for felony first-degree bail jumping.
According to the Dothan Eagle newspaper, Beecham testified at the sentencing hearing and said he didn’t believe he had received a fair trial.
He said he and his attorney had only two months to prepare for the trial on eight felony charges and saw a juror sleeping at two different times during his trial — one of those times was during his lawyer’s closing arguments.
After Beecham testified, the judge handed down the 624-year sentence.
Outrageous sentencing also speaks to the larger issue of mass incarceration and the considerable spike in average time served by inmates.
A recent report by the Pew Center on States analyzes the increase in sentence length between 1990 and 2009. Here’s a clip:
…Offenders released in 2009 served an average of almost three years in custody, nine months or 36 percent longer than offenders released in 1990. The cost of that extra nine months totals an average of $23,300 per offender. When multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of inmates released each year, the financial impact of longer length of stay is considerable. For offenders released from their original commitment in 2009 alone, the additional time behind bars cost states over $10 billion, with more than half of this cost attributable to nonviolent offenders.