Murder Victim Mom Against the Death Penalty


Posted on 31 October 2011

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By Lorrain Taylor

My twin sons, Albade and Obadiah, were just 22 years old when they were gunned down on the streets of East Oakland. Both students, Albade attending Merritt College and Obadiah studying to open his own barber shop, they had stopped on the side of the road to fix Obadiah’s stalled car when somebody shot and killed them at close range. The pain I feel for the loss of my sons will never go away. It is made even worse when I hear, almost daily, that another mother in California has lost her child to violence that has taken so many lives.

The person who killed my twin sons likely still walks the street today. Like the death of my sons, a shocking 46% of murders in California each year go unsolved, along with 56% of reported rapes. In this time of economic crisis, budgets for local law enforcement have been slashed repeatedly. Instead of hiring more officers to investigate open homicide cases, we are forced to lay off the very people who could catch these killers. Instead of testing each rape kit, they languish on shelves while the perpetrator remains free to attack another person.

While these criminals are still walking our streets, California continues to waste precious money on a broken death penalty system. Every year, California throws away $184 million dollars on 714 people that are already locked up behind bars instead of investing money in public safety programs that work. Since 1978 when the death penalty was reinstated, we have spent over 4 billion taxpayer dollars for 13 executions. For the cost of one execution, we could be employing nearly 6,000 police officers to patrol our streets, solve more serious crimes, and bring justice to more families.

The death penalty is a broken promise. It does not make our streets safer and it takes away resources from things that prevent violence, like keeping our kids in school and putting cops on the street. It also denies justice for thousands of grieving mothers who, like me, will never see their children’s murderer be held accountable for their crimes.

This is why I support the SAFE California Act (Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement for California Act). SAFE California is a ballot initiative that will replace the death penalty with life without possibility of parole. By replacing the death penalty with life without possibility of parole, California will save an estimated $1 billion over the next five years. In addition, it will allocate $100 million to local law enforcement to investigate unsolved murders and rapes.

A sentence of life without the possibility of parole offers swift and certain justice. It also means that inmates will work in prison and pay money into the victim compensation fund as restitution. This money can help families of murder victims receive badly needed counseling services and pay for burial expenses.

California voters are ready to dump the death penalty in favor of real justice. In a Field Poll released in September, 48% of California voters opted for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole while only 40% chose the death penalty. A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed 54% of Californians prefer life without possibility of parole. These recent polls show California voters’ strong preference for life without the possibility of parole over the death penalty, with even greater support among communities of color.

The SAFE Campaign needs over 500,000 signatures to qualify for the November 2012 ballot.   This past weekend, hundreds of volunteer and paid signature gathers hit the streets asking Californians to support SAFE CA. If you would like to volunteer or donate, please visit www.safecalifornia.org.

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Lorrain Taylor is a SAFE California supporter. Her twins sons were gunned down in 2000. The killer is still at large.

The author is not taking into account the cost to house, feed and cover medical expenses of those kept in California's prisons for the rest of their lives. To tell the whole story you'd really need the long-term costs of living for all of the inmates that this law's passage would effect.

Analysis by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice in 2008 and more recently in a study authored by Justice Alarcon show that the cost of the death penalty, including life-time imprisonment is, without doubt,3 times higher than life without parole. California has executed 13 people in the past 30 years costing the state over 4 billion. Personally, as the sister of a murder victim whose killer has not been arrested, I'd rather have cops on the street solving crimes.

U.S. states that repeal death penalty laws do not see a significant savings in trial costs. In states where the death penalty is the maximum punishment, a larger number of defendants are willing to plead guilty and receive a life sentence. The greater cost of trials where the prosecution does seek the death penalty is offset, at least in part, by the savings from avoiding trial altogether in cases where the defendant pleads guilty.