California now has a new drug for the “humane and dignified” execution of the 749 people condemned to death by lethal injection. The official announcement supposedly allows the resumption of executions by fulfilling the court’s requirements 10 years after it determined that the previously used three-drug combination was inhumane and painful.
We hope this is not the case. A long period for public comment remains pending on the system made public last Friday. There will certainly also be an avalanche of lawsuits that will argue the drug’s virtues and flaws. Even so, the issue is not delaying the implementation but rather changing the law that allows this misguided punishment.
The debate on the death penalty has Californians divided. Voters rejected Proposition 34 of 2012 that would have banned executions by a margin of 52% to 48%. Petitions to bring two measures on the issue to a vote are now circulating. One again aims to prohibit the practice, while the other is backed by a coalition of crime victims who want to accelerate executions by establishing shorter terms for appeals.
We are concerned by the fact that it aims to limit the time someone condemned to death has to appeal his or her sentence. California’s judicial system has serious flaws, and it is not reliable enough to apply a penalty as irreversible as death. There have been many cases in which dishonest actions by prosecutors in the handling of evidence and witnesses led to long sentences of innocent people, who were later freed once the error was discovered. The death penalty is impossible to correct.
At the same time, theargument that the punishment serves as a deterrent has also not been demonstrated. It sounds logical to think that the possibility of death would make a criminal think twice, but there is no evidence in the real world to confirm it.
Perhaps the fact that life sentences are cheaper than executions, due to legal costs, will convince more people to oppose the death penalty. But now with the new drug, we are closer to killing prisoners than to banning the practice.