Thursday, July 02, 2009

A little civilization breaks in


Photo by Steve Rhodes.

California may be going broke -- and a lot of good people are fighting to save the valuable functions of government from Republicans who refuse to tax themselves, ever, for anything but prisons.

But amidst it all, several friends of mine were part of overwhelming a committee the other day on another important topic: the death penalty. The LA Times captures the mild amazement that greeted this citizen outcry.

Reporting from Sacramento -- Corrections officials heard overwhelming condemnation of proposed new lethal injection procedures Tuesday at the first-ever public hearing on execution methods in the state.

Contrary to the solid majority of Californians who in opinion polls expressed support for the death penalty, only two out of more than 100 speakers supported a resumption of death sentences once legal hurdles are cleared. ...

Despite what was supposed to be a narrow discussion, religious leaders, doctors, lawyers, teachers and family members of murderers and their victims seized the opportunity to rail against "state-sponsored killing" and the $125 million a year spent to maintain a dysfunctional death row.

Opponents rallied by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California capped the eight-hour marathon of three-minute speeches by delivering a symbolic, oversized check for $1 billion to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office -- the amount needed over the next five years to bring executions up to constitutional standards. ...

Johanna Westerson, a Swedish human rights lawyer living in San Francisco, urged state officials to "join the civilized nations of the world in abandoning this barbaric practice" and part company with the likes of China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Nice work. Kudos to the organizers.

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