MVFHR board member Bill Babbitt was one of several contributors to a forum on capital punishment in yesterday's Sacramento Bee. Here's Bill's letter:
In 1978, without knowing much about the issue, I voted for the Briggs Initiative that expanded the state's death penalty. Two years later, the death penalty became more than an abstract issue to me. I suspected that my brother Manny, who had served two tours of duty in Vietnam, was responsible for a woman's death. I had to make the hardest decision of my life: turn him in or not?
When I did go to the police, they assured me that Manny would not get the death penalty. I believed them. I didn't know then that the death penalty works against the poor who cannot afford dream-team lawyers. …
My brother was sentenced to death, and meanwhile other defendants in Sacramento County, convicted of all sorts of murders, got life in prison. I learned that death sentences are often arbitrary and illogical, resulting from politicians' whims or attorneys' inexperience, rather than any sense of proportionality.
I have learned things about the death penalty that I wish I didn't know, including how families of the executed continue to suffer in the aftermath. It's time to act on this knowledge and reconsider California's death penalty.