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San Diego Law Enforcement Groups Push For Death Penalty Reform

By most accounts, California's death penalty process takes too long and costs too much.

By most accounts, California's death penalty process takes too long and costs too much, but public safety groups in San Diego County believe there might be a way to fix the state's broken death penalty process.

California taxpayers shell out $184 million each year to cover living and healthcare expenses for the state’s 740 inmates on death row. Death penalty trials cost $1 million more than noncapital-punishment cases. The state Supreme Court’s calendar for these cases is so choked up, it can take nearly 20 years to hear the appeals. And California hasn’t put any convicts to death in more than seven years because of problems with the lethal injection process.

It’s against this backdrop that a group of local public safety agencies and people who’ve lost loved ones to murder met Thursday to call for death penalty reform. Kermit Alexander’s mother, younger sister and three nephews were murdered by a hired killer in a case of mistaken identity in 1984. The killer — Tiequon Cox — remains on death row.

“My family asks everyday, ‘When’s this going to happen?’” Alexander said. “They’ve grown up hearing about this and they don’t believe the system works. How can I refute that, because it hasn’t worked.”

Death penalty reform advocates want to establish a single-drug injection procedure and streamline the appeals process. But California Western School of Law professor Justin Brooks said the process can’t be shortened because capital punishment trials by their nature are time-consuming and costly.

“The death penalty is on its way out in the United States, just as it's gone out in the rest of the world,” Brooks said.

Brooks said five states have abolished the capital punishment in recent years. California voters narrowly defeated a measure last year to outlaw the death penalty.

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Photo of Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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