When my aunt was murdered by her own son, my cousin Manuel, the local DA pushed for a death sentence against my family's wishes. I know what it’s like when a DA just doesn’t listen.
Now, District Attorneys are turning a deaf ear on California voters. Even though SAFE California submitted more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, each and every day, 58 District Attorneys continue to wield the power of death sentences in every county across California.
That’s why I’m speaking out to urge every California District Attorney to stop seeking death sentences until voters can decide for themselves this November.
I first heard about my aunt’s murder while watching the evening news in Spanish. Manuel was in the midst of a psychotic break related to a terrible illness. But we never got the sympathetic calls that we expected from authorities. Instead, we got a low blow from a DA who wanted the death penalty.
We couldn’t afford a private attorney so we worked day and night alongside public defenders. Eventually the obvious became clear to everyone -- including the DA -- and Manuel was sentenced to spend the rest of his life locked up. It may sound strange, but that was a gift for my family.
This November, the people of California should have the same opportunity to choose real justice over the death penalty's hollow promise. In the meantime, I hope you'll join me to ask California’s District Attorneys to hear voters out before seeking any more death sentences.
Death penalty trials re-open deep wounds for families like mine with court dates, autopsy photos, and reenactments. More often than not, cases end with an inmate’s death from old age or natural causes even after families are forced to revisit terrible events and even if a family does not want it. It’s just not right.
Life in prison without the possibility of parole offers real justice for victims -- justice that is sure and swift. Trials with a sentence of life without parole are over in a matter of months. SAFE California also requires inmates to work in high-security prison and to pay restitution into a victims’ compensation fund. And it sets aside $100 million in budget savings to solve some of the many unsolved rape and murder cases and to protect our families.
The people of California will decide on November 6, 2012 whether to keep the hollow promise of our broken death penalty, or replace it with life in prison with no chance of parole. California's DAs must listen.