In our final episode before Election Day, we talk about the death penalty, which California voters will have a chance to end this year or reform.
Proposition 62 would end the death penalty in California. Proposition 66 would try to speed up appeals of death penalty verdicts, which could result in quicker executions or exonerations. (If both pass, the one with the most votes takes effect.)
First Sara Libby and I talk with Mike and Penny Moreau, whose son Tim was murdered in Oregon in 1990. They discuss that horrible case and the moral dilemma they faced before they cast their votes this year on the two death penalty measures. On the one hand, philosophically, they think it’s wrong to kill somebody else. On the other, they have seen the criminal justice system up close and found there is some value in the death penalty.
They talk about a practical benefit of the death penalty: It can provide leverage for prosecutors. Their son’s killers took plea deals to avoid a death penalty trial. As part of those deals, they agreed to help authorities look for Tim’s body, which they had buried in the woods. (They were unsuccessful; Tim has not yet been found.)
“That’s when we got interested in what impact hanging over someone’s head the threat of a death penalty – how it can help victims find out what happened,” Mike Moreau said.
The Moreaus have also shepherded other parents of murdered children through the justice system and they’ve seen people with life sentences get out of jail. Before they’d vote to end the death penalty, they said they want to make sure the justice system doesn’t ignore victims.
We also talk with Kelly Davis, a freelance journalist who focuses on criminal justice issues. She walks us through some of the other policy implications of both death penalty ballot measures.
To end on a lighter note, we also talked about our favorite things from the week.
Libby enjoyed the many Vine videos people reposted after the video-sharing service announced it would discontinue its mobile phone app, effectively ending the service. Particular favorites include this and this.
I enjoyed Saturday Night Live’s “Black Jeopardy” skit because it highlighted the similarities between black and white working class Americans – their shared “disempowerment, suspicion of authority, and working-class identity,” as Jamelle Bouie at Slate put it – without papering over fundamental disagreements that still divide us.