Wyman Op-Ed

I’ve read about Ron Briggs, son of my former colleague John Briggs, coming out and publicly supporting Prop. 62 to move all those criminals on death row to life without parole. The argument he makes is that the death penalty isn’t working like it’s supposed to, so we might as well save the state some money and get rid of it.

On this issue, he cannot be more wrong.

Shortly after I had rejoined civilian life from the Air Force, I took up as an apple rancher. One night, I was hauling crop to be crushed for cider and was listening to a 24-hour news radio station. I heard of a brutal attack in Northern California that had killed a young woman and left her husband near death.

With horror, I heard my cousin’s name.

My family would never be the same. My cousin, Quita Pirelli-Minetti Hague, was the first victim of what would later be known as the Zebra murders around the Bay Area. Racially motivated, the group of young men responsible for my cousin’s death would later be involved with 15 other murders across California.

Within that same decade, nearly a dozen people were assaulted and murdered by the Manson Family in similarly racially-motivated murders would eventually be known as the Tate-LaBianca Killings. As State Senator in 1994, I was threatened with assassination by Charles Manson for authoring Son of Sam legislation. The legislation was meant to stop the selling of signatures and pictures for profit and instead bank that blood money for victims’ families.

These were atrocious crimes that were brutal in their execution and senseless in their aftermath. However, the death penalty then protecting Californians had been declared unconstitutional in 1976 after years of challenges.

Motivated by this lack of justice, I ran for California Assembly and was elected in 1978. After working with our new Governor George Deukmejian, I authored the Death Penalty Restoration Act to further strengthen the death penalty.

Thanks to ultra-liberal California Supreme Court justices, led by Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, the death penalty was frequently circumvented. Because of Bird’s anti-death penalty prejudice, all killers sentenced to death were alive – unlike their victims. Even with large public support for the death penalty, this new law was challenged again and again. Finally, public opposition was so strong that we recalled three sitting state Supreme Court justices, including Rose Bird, from the bench.

Since then, defense attorneys, death penalty opponents on the courts and in the Legislature, and outside parties have continued to chip away at the death penalty process to break it by any means they can. And now, they’ve even trying to use cost savings as a way to bring conservatives across the state on board with their plans.

Proposition 66 cleans up and focuses the death penalty, to make it work as it was always intended. Court added garbage is eliminated, and challenges to a death penalty finding unrelated to guilt or innocence are limited to a 5-year window.

While there are certainly costs to keeping death row inmates locked up and executed, it’s worth every penny. These dangerous individuals do not deserve the luxury of a long life at taxpayer expense and the benefit of breathing while so many of their victims, including countless children, lie in the ground.

I have always strongly supported a death penalty – one with teeth and without delay. That’s always been our number one goal with Prop. 66! I encourage all those who support strong criminal justice to vote NO on Prop. 62 and YES on Prop. 66 on Election Day.