2006 Archive

Death Penalty Clinic Director Disparages Capital Punishment System

Death Penalty Clinic Director and Clinical Professor of Law Elisabeth Semel’s op-ed, “The death penalty doesn’t pay” was published in the Los Angeles Times on January 13 prior to the scheduled execution of Clarence Ray Allen. “Two executions within a month is unprecedented,” writes Professor Semel, “in a state that, until December, had carried out only 11 executions since 1977…” The op-ed details substantive arguments against the effectiveness of death penalty as a deterrent of capital crimes, citing comparable cases where inmates were found guilty of death-eligible crimes but were not ultimately sentenced to death. Semel provides stunning examples of the extraordinary financial costs associated with the death penalty: Each of the 11 executions after 1977 cost Californians a quarter of a billion dollars; capital trials cost at least three times as much as non-capital murder trials; tens of millions of dollars are spent annually to pay for courts, prosecutors and defense counsel. Semel concludes, “… our state would do immeasurably better by removing this albatross of enormous financial and psychic weight.”

To read the complete opinion piece, visit the Los Angeles Times.