NEW VOICES: Former California Justice Now Says Death Penalty Is Broken Beyond Repair

Carlos Moreno, who served as a Justice on California’s Supreme Court for nearly a decade and upheld more than 200 death sentences, now supports a ballot measure to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole because the system is broken and unlikely to be fixed. Justice Moreno said that as long as capital defendants are “entitled to a fair trial and decent legal representation, there’s no way the system can accomplish its stated goals — punishment and deterrence for the criminals, justice for their victims – in a timely manner without money that the state is either unable or unwilling to spend.” He added, “I would think that we could fix the system, make it more efficient and actually faster, but I just don’t see that coming anywhere in the future. In California the people may be willing to support the death penalty in principle but they’re not willing to fund it.” According to a 2011 study co-authored by federal Court of Appeals Judge Arthur Alarcon, the death penalty in California costs taxpayers about $184 million per year. Justice Moreno concluded, “[T]here’s no chance California’s death penalty can ever be fixed. The millions wasted on this broken system would be much better spent keeping teachers, police and firefighters on their jobs.”

(B. Egelko, “Ex-justice who supports death penalty backs measure to abolish it,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 2, 2012). Californians will vote on a death penalty repeal measure, Proposition 34, in November. See Costs. Listen to our podcast on Costs.