Please DON’T vote in favor of Prop 34 to end California’s death penalty, from Verbena Lea Oct 2012

feedback welcome to copwatchrwc@riseup.net, especially if you've read the various statements!  ~Verbena of RedwoodCurtain CopWatch

I know that this might be difficult for people to understand, but I am urging you not to vote for Prop 34, the Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act (SAFE California Act).  Never would I believe that I would stand in the way of abolishing the death penalty, but as with many propositions, bills, and ballot measures brought to the people in the past, with promising names (i.e. the horrendous and misleading "Victim's Rights Bill", Prop 9 in 2008) or the appearance of good ideas, it is necessary to look deeper- WHO created the bill?  WHO is advocating for it?  WHO is against it?  WHY?  Propositions put in petitions and on our ballots are not always as simple or righteous as they sound.

I have been talking some with people who have worked with prisoners and have fought for years against the racist, classist, unjust, and cruel jail and prison system of the U.S.- which has about 2.3 million people captured in its cages, and many more under the constant scrutiny and control of the injustice system (run by some of the worst crooks/criminals on Earth). And this does not account for the U.S. immigration detention centers, holding thousands of captives.  So, I sought out some opinions from people I trust, especially after speaking with a local woman who has been doing prisoner support and prison abolition work, and she was not excited about Prop 34. The large majority of people on death row in CA, apparently are not in favor either.  That says a lot.

It is my strong opinion, now, that we should not allow Prop 34 to pass.  And we should get busy creating a better ballot measure to end the death penalty, which puts funding in a just direction for those so harmed by the injustice system.


Below are four writings from prisoners on Death Row in San Quentin.  One of the writers, Kevin Cooper is an outspoken artist, writer, prisoner who was framed (like many black men) years ago for murder and has been fighting to be freed from prison and from death row for many years.  I think he raises important questions to examine... WHY were death row inmates never consulted by the proponents of this Act?  Who are the proponents?

PLEASE READ the statement from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty as to why it "cannot add its name to the list of organizations endorsing the California SAFE Act."   Here is the link:
http://www.nodeathpenalty.org/organizing-updates/october-25-2012-organizing-update/cedp-statement-california-safe-act

 

It is a matter of innocence, not economics

October 1, 2012

by Jarvis Jay Masters (on San Quentin's Death Row)

Please DON’T vote in favor of “The SAFE California Act” to end California’s death penalty.

You need to know that your vote for this act would throw away the key for all the innocent men and women on death row and, instead, sentence all prisoners on death row to spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole and without effective legal representation.

The way I see it is, behind the scenes, the “Act” has been to cast Jeannie Woodford, former prison guard, former San Quentin warden, former director of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and current director of Death Penalty Focus, an organization striving to abolish the death penalty, to build support for this “Act” from, among others, the prison guards union.

Please DON’T vote in favor of “The SAFE California Act” to end California’s death penalty.

I am not the first to say how deeply troubling it is to see this initiative being advocated for by a woman who presided over state executions without ever offering an OPEN apology.

There is something even more troubling about depending on a flawed prison system and its employees to go ahead and make this decision, when the men and women at risk have never been asked for our two cents about matters that affect our life and death.  PLEASE KEEP READING!

Despite what I have been told, I believe this “SAFE California Act” will remove the statutory appeals guaranteed under the present law. This new law will assume that all those on death row are uniformly guilty. Don’t I matter? What about the innocent men and women presently on death row, these same men and women who will no longer have the effective legal means to a genuine appeal?

Your vote for this act would throw away the key for all the innocent men and women on death row and, instead, sentence all prisoners on death row to spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole and without effective legal representation.

If having effective legal representation has anything to do with the state’s money crunch, then, make no mistake, innocent human beings will die in prison. If Californians really want to save the state money, here’s an idea: Why not eliminate the “vengeance sentencing” of the Three Strikes Law. Eliminating Three Strikes would close prisons and save millions of dollars every year.

Those supporting the SAFE California Act on economic grounds – that eliminating the death penalty will save money for a cash-strapped state – I have never heard them mention the moral and ethical issues of putting a fellow human being to death. You would not be casting a real vote to answer the prayers of prisoners by ending capital punishment. Let us first be human beings.

No! For myself and others here on San Quentin’s death row, the way we will eliminate the death penalty is to look at what other states have done and work to provide more effective legal representation to show and prove there are more and more innocent men and women on death row.

If having effective legal representation has anything to do with the state’s money crunch, then, make no mistake, innocent human beings will die in prison.

It is a fact that, again and again, the greater public and their legislators have changed their opinions about the death penalty after discovering innocent people who were condemned to death.

Why not start proving the cases of innocent people and free them to tell their truths, tell of their years of horror, and then let the state decide: Do you morally want to have a legal system that will put to death human beings, even the innocent ones?

Jarvis Jay Masters has been incarcerated for 32 years on San Quentin’s Death Row. He is the author of “Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row” and “That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row.”

 

Death row debate: Yes or No on the SAFE California Act?

The SAFE California Act to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole will be on the November ballot in California. Here are links and short blurbs from the perspectives of three men on San Quentin’s death row.

SAFE California Act: No thank you

by Kevin Cooper

I have been asked what I think about the “SAFE California Act,” which is being pushed as a real alternative to this state’s death penalty. [It would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP).] I have been asked by activists, death row inmates and certain family members of death row inmates. I have also asked myself this same question. After all, it is our future which is being voted on by the people of California in November 2012.

I must add this. At no time was I or, to my knowledge, any man or woman who resides on death row within this state asked our opinion about the SAFE California Act by the sponsors of this initiative, the people who bankrolled it or the people who collected signatures in support of it. I wonder why that is?

 

I am personally against this initiative, and I do not support it for a couple different reasons. First and foremost, this “act” is just another version of the death penalty. We who will be affected by it will still be living in inhumane conditions. read more...  http://sfbayview.com/2012/death-row-debate-yes-or-no-on-the-safe-california-act/

Kevin Cooper was sentenced to death in 1985 and maintains his innocence. In 2008, five federal judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals signed an 82-page dissenting opinion that begins: “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man,” 565 F.3d 581. He has exhausted all his legal remedies and, should the lethal injection litigation settle in California, Kevin is one of the 14 currently in line for imminent execution barring the governor and California Supreme Court granting him a pardon or clemency.

Don’t miss the recently released true crime story, “Scapegoat: The Chino Hills Murders and the Framing of Kevin Cooper,” by J. Patrick O’Connor, editor and publisher of Crime Magazine. Available online through major booksellers.

 

SAFE California Act: Pine Box or Ballot Box

by Donald Ray Young

This is our time to abolish capital punishment in California via the ballot box. If we allow this killing machine to resuscitate, we can expect executions of the more than 725 death-row prisoners at a rate that will send shock waves throughout Texas. read more...  http://sfbayview.com/2012/death-row-debate-yes-or-no-on-the-safe-california-act/

 

SAFE California Act: We don’t want it

by Correll Thomas


The Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act (SAFE California Act) is an atrocity and I question the author and sponsor(s)’ motives behind the initiative. Who are they really working for? Who are they really working with? read more...  http://sfbayview.com/2012/death-row-debate-yes-or-no-on-the-safe-california-act/

Supporter’s note: Correll Thomas is one of numerous men and women on California’s death row, who are currently unrepresented and wait for counsel to be appointed. You will often hear the pro-death penalty forces talk of the “years” it takes to find justice, but most people are unaware of the years many prisoners wait as witnesses disappear, memories fade, evidence is lost and they even die awaiting justice. And they have no counsel appointed to represent them. If the SAFE California initiative passes this November, these men and women will most likely never have their cases reviewed.

.

Comments

i have to respond by urging everyone to vote FOR proposition 34. i do 
not believe it is just or moral to put someone to death for her or his 
crimes. i do believe that it is important, however weak prop 34 is, to 
send a message that the people of california(okay, the voters) to send a 
message that the death penalty has no place in any "justice" system.   
not that everything about this ballot measure is so wonderful.

it is, as verbena and her sources suggest, a mightily imperfect solution 
to a terrible problem. the additional funding for "law enforcement" will 
simply allow the in-justice system to lock up the poor, the 
disenfranchised, people of color, as part of a system meant to suppress 
people's rights. calling it the SAFE act is an abomination. using a 
financial argument to gain support is certainly flawed. it does  nothing 
to support the organizing work that needs to be done to set things 
right--if that's even something we can all agree on.  i do have to take 
issue with the adding of a "supporter's note" (added below) included 
with the words of correll thomas--it is true that those in prison, death 
row or not, suffer from less than adequate representation, but i can't 
see any reason why prop 34 will change that imbalance. my friends who 
spend many hours defending alleged criminals, and fighting almost always 
in vain for their appeals, don't believe that.

_/*Supporter’s note: Correll Thomas is one of numerous men and women on 
California’s death row, who are currently unrepresented and wait for 
counsel to be appointed. You will often hear the pro-death penalty 
forces talk of the “years” it takes to find justice, but most people are 
unaware of the years many prisoners wait as witnesses disappear, 
memories fade, evidence is lost and they even die awaiting justice. And 
they have no counsel appointed to represent them. If the SAFE California 
initiative passes this November, these men and women will most likely 
never have their cases reviewed.*/_

i have been active on and off in doing prison support work for 25 years, 
starting with CAPS(coalition against prison slavery) in my tender years. 
i should do more. i have friends who are still very active, and they 
share a lot of the concerns raised by verbena's contacts. but they are 
unequivocal in urging folks to vote to abolish the death penalty.

it's not an end, but rather a beginning of trying to set a few things 
right in this bizarro world we seem to live in--where someone like mitt 
romney can even have the slightest chance of getting a nomination, much 
less a chance of being the president(not that barack is such a force for 
serious system change).

vote yes on prop 34. ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY!

Yes, I have heard plenty about the California ballot referendum on the death penalty. Those challenging their convictions, which are many, will be stripped of the right to counsel that is specially provided for death-sentenced prisoners in California to pursue habeas corpus appeals. That is one main issue.

Another is that the initiative posits Life Without Parole (LWOP) as the alternative, which has been denounced as The Other Death Penalty by an increasing number of people and advocates inside and outside the walls.

In essence, the anti-death penalty movement has sacrificed a moral opposition to capital punishment to a strategy that emphasizes the fiscal aspect, and advocates for other methods to permanently punish and dehumanize people.