The Legal Investigator The Legal Investigator (Vol 38, Issue 3, Fall 2013) : Page 2

civil focus Paradox of the by Francie Koehler, CLI The “ Death Penalty Former elected District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, Kamala Harris, now California’s State Attorney General, stated that she did not support the death penalty. In 2004 David Hill, a gang member, allegedly gunned down San Francisco police officer Isaac Espinoza. At the time officer Espinoza was on duty, working undercover and in plain clothes. Harris elected not to seek a punishment by death (Chaing, 2004). The killing of a police officer is one of California’s 20 special circumstances leading to a death sentence. Again, in 2009, Harris declared no death would be sought against a 22-year-old suspected gang member, Edwin Ramos, for a triple murder (Lee, 2009). In fact, between 1991 and 2007 there were no death sentences in San Francisco (Ganchow, 2011). The scenario is much different in bordering counties. Alameda County is separated from San Francisco only by the Bay Bridge. the legal investigator The administration of the death penalty is inconsistently administered and inconsistently applied, a paradox for sure. The death penalty… what do we know about the death penalty? The late-United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall is reported to have said that if people had the same knowledge he had about the death penalty, they would be shocked (ProCon, 2011). I tend to agree. We know it kills. We know it is retaliatory. We know it is final. Some even believe it deters crime. But do we know that it is arbitrary? Do we know an individual can commit a crime in one location, drive just a few miles, commit the same crime in another location and be charged differently? Take the San Francisco Bay Area where I reside. Though 70 percent of voters, polled in a statewide 2010 survey by the San Francisco Field Research Corporation, said they supported the death penalty (DiCamillo & Field, 2010), it is not administered equally across the state. 4

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