Prop. 66 will end lengthy appeal process for death penalty

Aaron Tam, Opinion Editor

Michael Morales was 22 years old when he was convicted of murdering Tokay High student Terri Winchell in 1981. He’s now 57 and has been rotting in jail for the past 35 years.

Winchell’s body was found on a Thursday night between two rows of grapevines. Hours before, she was violently bludgeoned, raped, and stabbed to death by Morales.

“If a guy commits a serious offence like murder or rape, then he deserves to be put in death row,” senior Dominic Poole said.

Like many other convicted criminals, he stalled his case as long as possible all in an effort to live his life confined in prison rather than face execution. For the next 25 years, Morales would throw out excuse after excuse despite pleading guilty to the crime. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, death penalty appeals have cost taxpayers about $4 billion over 38 years.

This is the problem that plagues our criminal justice system and a solution is needed. Proposition 66 will fill that role. This proposition works to speed up the death penalty appeals process and in turn cuts costs and time.

Morales was finally sentenced to death in 2006. All the files were finalized, the case was closed, and it looked as if justice was finally going to be served. However, two hours before his execution by lethal injection, the State of California backed out. The U.S. District Court called for a moratorium on capital punishment, deeming it “excessively cruel and painful” for the condemned prisoner.

Unchanged since 1996, lethal injection remained the default method of execution in California. The execution is a three-drug process; the first drug induces unconsciousness, the next is an anesthetic, and the final drug results in death.

With a pain-free death, the only “cruel” and “painful” action is society’s inability to punish murderers as they trample over the lives of the dead and the cries of their loved ones demanding justice.

“It’s been so long, but ever since I was a kid, I told myself I’d be front row to see him die — and now it’s time for that to happen,” Brian Chalk, Winchell’s brother said to the “San Francisco Chronicle” upon hearing of the further delay of Morale’s execution date.

Unless anti-death penalty protesters have lost their loved one to homicide, they have no right to assume the worth of a victim’s life and protect a gruesome criminal for the sole purpose of opposing the law. In the end, the final ruling should reflect the family’s will and righteous justice being served.

Yet the U.S. District Court, the very body that upholds justice, still has the audacity to question the ethics of execution.

At the moment, California jails hold 743 inmates on death row who have long since made a home from their cells.

“It is not okay that we have over 700 inmates on death row,” junior Daniel Hagele said.

Opponents of the death penalty give various reasons to abolish it and give depraved criminals life without parole. Some argue about the chance of executing an innocent person. Others mention the high cost of maintaining the death penalty. The whole system is flawed according to them.

This is false.

In California, it costs taxpayers $90,000 a year to house one inmate on death row charges whereas a general inmate costs $47,000. It costs far more to feed, guard, educate, house, and provide healthcare to such individuals, and even more to pay for their lives for endless decades. And that money that pays for this is none other than the money from taxpayers’ pockets.

Yet we provide such a great environment to such heinous individuals while we have 44 million people in our country lacking healthcare, 3.5 million people who experience homelessness per year, and 83 percent of young Americans who cannot afford higher education. Instead of focusing on fixing a problem we should focus on preventing it from happening instead.

Actions have consequences, and crimes must be punished.