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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

An anti-death penalty bill is wending its way toward the desk of California’s anti-death penalty governor, much to the delight of the ACLU and other crusaders.

The rationale behind Senate Bill 490, by state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, is that capital punishment is too expensive. Let’s imagine the discussion in the author’s capitol office as her staff prepared the bill:

“We know you have the votes in the Legislature,” says Hancock’s top aide, Jill Poke, “but how are you going to get this to fly with the electorate? Voters still favor killing killers, you know.”

“Capital punishment is an expensive failure and an example of the dysfunction of our prison system,” says Hancock. “California’s death row is the largest and most costly in the United States. It is not helping to protect our state; it is helping to bankrupt us.”

“Whoooo!” That’s good!” exclaims her press secretary, Amy Handleman. “You got anything more along those lines?”

“How about the fact that California has only staged 13 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978 – at a cost of about $4 billion,” offers Hancock.

“Capital!” chirps Handleman, whipping out a calculator and punching in some numbers. “Wow! That’s more than $300 million for every state-sponsored murder. But do you think we should say why it has cost so much?”

“We have to be careful on that point,” interjects Poke. “Let’s just say the legal costs of making sure we don’t make a permanent mistake – you know, executing an innocent person – run up the cost. We don’t want to get into details.”

“I take your point,” says Handleman. “We all remember the heat our side took for the frivolous appeals in the case of Stanley “Tookie” Williams. Claiming he was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee somehow didn’t make people forget he was a founder of the Crips gang, or convince them his vicious killings were the natural outcome of his downtrodden life.”

“I agree,” says the senator. “The people are going to get to vote on this, and we don’t want remind people how hard our side works to gin up appeals in order to run up the cost of an execution. The truth would be the kiss of death for this bill.”

She continues, “Another thing: Let’s not lean too heavily on the argument that capital punishment isn’t a deterrent. Too many people understand it lacks deterrence because it hardly ever happens. Let’s emphasize that we’re replacing death with a sentence of life without parole – as the much cheaper alternative.”

“And later,” says Poke, “we can work to prove that life without parole is too expensive, and that we can rehabilitate these poor murderers and release them to lead productive lives.”

All agree.



Courting disaster: Hancock has bolstered her anti-capital punishment arguments by citing a study titled, “Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle.” Co-author of the study: Judge Arthur L. Alarcon of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This should help you understand why the Ninth is the most-reversed circuit of the federal judiciary.


Grounds for disbarment? In the penalty of phase of capital murder trials we often hear the defense lawyer argue that life in prison without parole would be a worse sentence for his client than death. Shouldn’t this be grounds for instant disbarment? Any lawyer who seeks the worst penalty should lose his license for failing to protect his client’s interests.


Texas sees the light: Cheers to the Lone Star State for waging the fight to preserve the incandescent light bulb. Gov. Rick Perry has signed a law declaring that such bulbs, if made and sold in Texas, would not be involved in interstate commerce and thus could not be banned by federal law.

So-called environmental groups are distressed at the action, even though to the best of our knowledge, there are no light bulb manufacturers in Texas. But if a bulb maker should move there, watch for the development of a black market in Texas incandescents when federal law banning the bulbs takes effect – starting with 100 watters next January and finishing off 40-watt bulbs in 2014.

Environmentalists note that more efficient florescent and halogen incandescents will be more expensive but will save money in the long run. But they don’t trust consumers to choose the right thing in a competitive marketplace.

California lawmakers, of course, want to implement the full ban earlier. They don’t understand why consumers object to being forced to buy something that’s good for them – kind of like that great new national health-care plan.

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