Did you hear? Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye on CA’s death penalty

January 4, 2012

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye


"I don't think it is working. It's not effective. We know that."

This is how California’s death penalty was described just a few days ago. Not by a long-suffering activist or champion of lost causes. These are the words of the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye is a conservative Republican, former prosecutor, appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to the Los Angeles Times, she has written a ruling affirming a death sentence and joined other justices' decisions upholding capital sentences since she was promoted to the state Supreme Court last January. 

The Chief Justice has years of experience and a privileged vantage point at the head of California’s justice system. The truth is that California’s death penalty is broken beyond repair. Other top law enforcement leaders say the same thing, along with murder victim family members, and even the man who wrote the law in the first place.

Everyone in California, conservative, moderate or liberal, can agree that we have a $4 billion death penalty problem. Here’s how Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye went on to explain it:

"I don't know if the question is whether you believe in it anymore. I think the greater question is its effectiveness and given the choices we face in California, should we have a merit-based discussion on its effectiveness and costs? … That really is up to the voters or to the Legislature," she said, asking whether the criminal justice system can "make better use of our resources."

This is not rocket science. We know the answer to that question.

Instead of wasting billions of dollars on the death penalty, we could use some of that money to solve the 46% of murders and 56% of reported rapes that go unsolved every year and make California a safer place for our families. We could make better use of our resources by investing in our kids’ schools and violence prevention programs. With the money we wasted on just one execution, we could have put more than 5,000 police officers on the streets or even more teachers in the classroom.

This November, look for Californians of all backgrounds as they say “I agree with the Chief”. We’re all ready to make the right choice for California.