A much circulated study released yesterday found that California spends about $184 million a year on its policy of capital punishment. That means, from a cost-result perspective, that for each of the 13 executions completed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, California has spent $308 million. The study came not from an anti-death penalty group, but from U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon, a former prosecutor, and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell.
The money issue in capital punishment has become a big one. Recently, Governor Jerry Brown halted a construction project that would have revamped and expanded death row at San Quentin State Prison, citing the project’s $365 million price tag.
The San Francisco Police Department is facing its biggest scandal in years after Public Defender Jeff Adachi releasedvideoslastweek that allegedly show plainclothes narcotics officers repeatedly busting into a SoMa residential hotel without a warrant. The recordings were captured by security cameras mounted inside the Henry Hotel at 106 Sixth Street.
Seemingly every day, a new video pops up. On Monday, Adachi released videos of a December 2 narcotics arrest. The Public Defender claims the 29-year-old man inside the targeted room was set up by officers and then charged with possession of cocaine. Charges were later dropped in this and thirteen additional cases following the release of the videos. Additionally, thousands of cases involving eight officers from the Southern District’s plainclothes squad may be called into question because of the footage and what it purportedly depicts.
Kamala Harris, after beating out Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley by a slim margin, took office today as the new attorney general of California. Harris had campaigned as an innovator and reformer in contrast to Cooley’s more cop’s cop image. She, unlike many career prosecutors, often pointed to problems with the criminal justice system–prison overcrowding, the state’s high recidivism rate, and the number of low-level offenders who become increasingly serious criminals when they enter the system. In her inauguration speech today, Harris pointed to those issues as things she’ll focus on as attorney general. She also pledged to fight white collar crime, stand up for California’s environmental regulations, uphold the right for same-sex couples to wed, and investigate internet crimes. A couple of portions of the speech were particularly interesting.
Because Kamala Harris and Steve Cooley have each declared victory in the race for Attorney General in California, and just going out on a limb here, one of them is probably wrong. Last night around 11pm, Cooley gave a full-on victory speech at his election night party:
At the time, he had a slight lead over Harris. But by the time he woke up (if he went to bed at all), the precincts were all reporting in and Harris had taken the lead–a relatively slight one, 22,000 votes. Now, with some provisional and absentee ballots still uncounted, Harris has declared victory, saying the outstanding votes are likely to go her way. Harris, perhaps wisely, decided to declare the win in a press release and not on live (and endlessly replay-able) television. Cooley canceled his scheduled press conference this morning and headed to a thank-you event for donors: a $2,500 per person Kings-Lakers game with the either champ or defeated candidate.
UPDATE: Harris campaign says they’re not declaring victory… they’re just saying that Kamala Harris will be the next attorney general. I’ll not speculate as to the difference.
As a recent Sacramento Bee editorial put forth, if you’re looking for a statewide candidate who embraces full-on prison reform in this election, you’re going to be disappointed. The candidates have mostly steered clear of making any promises or plans for changing the state’s overcrowded and heavily scrutinized prison system, or taking on the state’s high recidivism rate. Yet the candidates do display subtle differences.
“Cooley and Harris both know that California cannot possibly empty death row, unless capital punishment is abolished, which is unlikely, or the state were to figure out some way to persuade courts to rubber-stamp death penalty appeals. That’s even less likely, and no one should want that.”
- Dan Morain, opining that a candidate’s stance on the death penalty shouldn’t be a major factor in the race for attorney general. (Sacramento Bee)
So far, we’ve seen a lot from the candidates for governor in the upcoming election. And we’ve seen possibly even more from the two major candidates for US senate. (The phrase “ad nauseam” comes to mind.) The race for attorney general has largely fallen to the back burner. Which made today’s debate at UC-Davis between Republican Steve Cooley and Democrat Kamala Harris, the two major candidates, a good opportunity for some insight into how the candidates see themselves–or at least, want to be seen by voters.