Have a seat; this could take a while.
Have a seat; this could take a while.

OC is a Killer County

Serial killer Rodney Alcala received the death sentence for the third time in as many decades today. Could sentence number three mean he'll be mainlining the state's death-cocktail sometime soon? Hardly.
According to a report released yesterday by the ACLU of Northern California, the mandatory review process required in California death penalty cases could take more than 25 years to complete, mostly due to insufficient state funds to pay for defense attorneys.

The report also says that in the last 30 years, California has gone forward to execute only one out of 100 people sentenced to death.

Which isn't to say that the state hasn't been trying: in 2009 we sentenced 29 people to death. The number was 33 in 2000. Compare that to Texas: they sentenced 11 people to death in 2009, a significant drop from the 34 they sentenced in 2000.

Texas, in fact, is a one of the trendies; in the rest of the country, the rate has dropped to its lowest numbers since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

According to the report, California's new status as the national leader in dealing death can be blamed on three "killer counties:" Riverside, Los Angeles and, yours truly, Orange County.

Here are the grim stats:

  • OC, LA and Riverside counties combined made up 83% of California's death sentences in  2009. Those counties represent 41% of the state's population.
  • The three killer counties sentenced more people to die in 2009 than the entire state did each year from 2002 to 2008.
  • Orange County sentenced 22 people to death between 2000 and 2009. LA County sentenced 62, and Riverside County sentenced 28. Rounding out the top five killer counties for this time period are San Bernardino County with 16, and Alameda County with 15.
  • LA county sent 13 people to death row in 2009, which is more than the entire state of Texas. Orange County sent 7, Riverside County sent 4.
  • Over 65% of the people sentenced to death in California in 2007, 2008 and 2009 were African Americans or Latino, even though they represent only 44% of the California population.
  • California spends $137 million a year on death penalty cases. Of that, $63 million goes to Death Row Housing. Would you like the garden or pool view, Mr. Alcala?
  • California spends $60 million Medi-Cal programs, and about $50 million on services for children every year.

According to the report, The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice concluded in 2008 that the state will need to spend an additional  $95 million a year, "if we want to reduce the time needed to review death penalty cases in a fair and accurate manner. Because of the states fiscal crisis, the Governor and the Legislature have failed to implement any of these recommendations."

In 25 years, Rodney Alcala will be 91 years old. So, which of these scenarios is most likely to arrive first: the pile of cash needed to fix California's broken death penalty system, the state's decision to opt for permanent imprisonment, or Alcala's death from natural causes? 


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