Our community is currently being reminded of the horrific crimes allegedly committed by Richard Hirschfield, who faces a possible death sentence. At the same time, Juan Roberto Melendez Colon has been speaking in Davis about the nearly 18 years he spent on death row for a crime he did not commit.
We all want justice for Sabrina Gonsalves and John Riggins, but I don’t believe capital punishment is the answer. Here’s why: I couldn’t do it.
I imagine a system where the executioner is decided by lottery, like jury duty. I can’t vote no on Prop. 34 and be morally opposed to do the killing myself. I’m sure some people would jump at the chance to execute their most despised criminal, but that’s not how it would work.
If I vote to continue with the death penalty, I would have no knowledge of the cases to come. Therefore, the executioner would have no knowledge of the person they were directed to execute.
As the executioner, I would have to trust that the death penalty was applied fairly, with no racial or class bias. I would have to trust that the defendant was adequately represented, and the prosecutor was ethical. Trust that they are, in fact, guilty. Trust that I was doing the right thing.
I couldn’t do it. I have no sympathy for murderers, but I believe the death penalty degrades society. That it doesn’t just harm the criminal, it harms me. Prop. 34 doesn’t ask for compassion, rehabilitation or leniency. It demands that convicted murderers be put in a small cell and left there — forever. That is punishment. I’ll be voting yes on Prop. 34.