Editor's note: We rarely run op-ed pieces by non-staffers, but are making an exception for this piece. Below, a woman whose sister was killed and mother was shot in Orange County's worst-ever mass shooting urges California voters to vote Yes on Proposition 62, which would abolish the death penalty in California. She also brings up the ineptitude and duplicity of Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, whose empire is crumbling thanks to his office's prosecution of confessed killer Scott Dekraii. The views expressed below do not necessarily reflect the position of OC Weekly...ah, who are we kidding? Abolish the damn thing, and piss off Tony Rack some more, gentle readers.
Time to end the death penalty’s empty promise of justice and closure
By Beth Webb
Every day is hard, but October 12th is the hardest.
Five years ago on that fateful day, a hateful man seeking revenge on his ex-wife stepped into Salon Meritage in Seal Beach wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying multiple guns. That day, he killed his ex- wife and seven others, including my little sister Laura. My mother, who was also in the salon that day, was shot but miraculously survived. When law enforcement asked the murderer why he killed the seven people in addition to his ex-wife, he called them “collateral damage.” He is what many call “the worst of the worst” among criminals.
The case should have been open-and-shut. There were multiple witnesses to the shooting and the killer himself confessed to the crime. There was no doubt this terrible man bore the responsibility for his horrific acts of violence.
Yet five years later, my family and I are trapped in a legal nightmare with no end in sight.
While the killer plead guilty to eight counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in 2014, the legal process and sentencing continues to drag on because the death penalty is involved. An overzealous district attorney is desperately seeking the death penalty and has proved he is willing to do whatever it takes to add another death sentence to his resume—even illegally using a jailhouse informant to obtain information and withholding thousands of pages of documents from the defense. All of this is keeping us in the courts and the killer in the news. We could have ended this madness many years ago by simply sentencing the killer to life in prison without parole. He would be locked away for the rest of his life and we would all be done with him.
Instead, our family is forced to return to court for ongoing hearings, only to have Laura’s killer sitting just feet away from us and then see him on the front page of every newspaper. It makes it so much harder to heal when we’re constantly faced with my sister’s killer and unsure if and when this ugly chapter in our lives will ever come to a close.
The day my sister’s killer walked into the salon he had vengeance in his heart and an agenda to kill. He believed that only with the death of his enemy, his ex-wife, could he find peace. I refuse to hold that same vengeance in my heart. I reject the idea there is any excuse for murder, or that the killing of anyone will ease my pain. My sister Laura was a beautiful and loving person. It is insulting to Laura and her memory to validate what he did by doing the the same to him.
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Laura was a better person than he is. I am better person than he is. And we as a society, and as Californians, are better than him. We can send that message this November by voting “Yes” on Prop 62.
That’s why I am proud to support and vote for Prop 62, which will replace California’s death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since joining the Prop 62 campaign, I have met many people, each with their own reasons for opposing the death penalty. Some persuaded by studies that show the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. Others realize the death penalty is a tremendous waste of taxpayer money, costing California taxpayer $5 billion since 1978 to carry out just 13 executions while housing hundreds of criminals in expensive death row facilities and paying for their appeals. And others are rightly horrified by the very real, and unavoidable, possibility of executing an innocent person. I have also met people who were convicted and sentenced to death only to be exonerated many years – and sometimes decades – later.
For me, it’s because I have come to see the death penalty for the empty promise of justice and closure that it is. After decades of torturous trials, the killing of that vile man will not give me my sister back, it will only have prolonged the pain and denied the closure we so need.
It’s time to end the death penalty in California. Please join me and my family on November 8th to vote Yes on Proposition 62.