Californians Must Confront the Issue of Capital Punishment

Mark Laluan

The latest Field Poll indicates that over 70% of Californians are in favor of some form of capital punishment. And therein lies the problem; no consensus can be found over what constitutes the death penalty.
Public policy must be based on concrete concepts. To cite the latest Field Poll as a blessing to continue the nebulous state of affairs regarding our death row policy, functions to gloss over the problem at hand.
The backlog created by a Byzantine appeals process and constant second guessing means that, out of the 648 prisoners currently in California’s death row, only 13 have been executed in the last thirty-five years.
It is our opinion that the death penalty, in its current form, must be abolished. While this position may find little merit with the families of victims of death row inmates, the fact that popular opinion is torn over what constitutes “humane” methods of execution, how the appeals process should be structured and, most of all, what constitutes crimes that should carry the death penalty.
The debate over the application of death as the ultimate punishment is by no means new. The 13th century Catholic theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas states in his “Summa contra Gentiles” that “The life of certain pestiferous men is an impediment to the common good which is the concord of human society. Therefore, certain men must be removed by death from the society of men.”
Aquinas’ reasoning is not unlike the reasoning of contemporary supporters of the death penalty. Yet, can the greater good be served through the death penalty if the death penalty has been so unevenly applied?
The answer must be no. A system that penalizes the accused for lack of wealth, skin color or settled standards must not and cannot be considered just. However, it is our opinion at The Pioneer that there are some cases in which capital punishment is justified. Though in those cases, such as crimes against humanity, there exists a standard, or at least a semblance of a standard, that does not lend itself easily to being sensationalized by the passions of the masses, or the whims of the few.
Until California creates its own watertight version of the “Nuremburg Principles,” it should not exercise the current death penalty