By Darla Shelden
The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) has announced that former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti will be this year’s keynote speaker at the 22nd Annual Spring Membership and Awards Dinner. The event will be held in Oklahoma City on Saturday, April 20.
Jeanne Woodford, former San Quentin State Prison warden, now Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus said, “Former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti was a tough but fair Prosecutor. His substantial experience with the death penalty has led him to conclude it is time to end this punishment.”
As District Attorney, from 1992 to 2000, Garcetti headed the largest local prosecutorial office in the United States with more than 1100 prosecutors, 200 investigators and support staff of almost 2000. With a budget of approximately $260 million, the office annually prosecuted over 280,000 cases.
A world renowned photographer, Garcetti has published 7 photo books and held numerous exhibitions, most recently in Paris, Geneva and Vienna. He is also a Consulting Director at TNT for “The Closer and Major Crimes” series.
“I served 32 years in the District Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and I’ve been gone for nearly 12 years,” said Garcetti. “In those accumulated 44 years, only two people sent to Death Row from an L.A. court have been executed, despite decades of agony for the families of murder victims and hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to taxpayers. I have concluded that the death penalty law should be replaced with life imprisonment without the possibly of parole.”
In March of 2011, Garcetti wrote an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times expressing his opposition to the death penalty. “I came out saying this is absolutely crazy and a waste of money,” he said. “And there’s the issue of possible innocence.”
Garcetti was then asked by members of California Proposition 34 to become a spokesperson for the ballot initiative that sought to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Prop 34 was narrowly defeated by a vote of 52.8 percent to 47.2 percent.
“When serving life, prisoners are put in the general population, forced to work, and forced to begin to pay restitution,” said Garcetti. “The biggest death penalty cost usually is associated with the appellate process, but you can’t underestimate the costs for the incarceration on death row.”
Garcetti is particularly concerned with the effect death row cases have on families and close friends of the victim.
“To me, those family members and friends also became victims of the crime, “Garcetti said. “They face years of torment thanks to the incredibly lengthy legal review process required for all cases in which the death penalty is imposed.”
“The hundreds of millions of dollars we throw away on this broken system would be much better spent on solving and preventing crime, investing in our kids’ schools and by helping the victims families of murder cases to get their lives back together,” said Garcetti.
Lydia Polley, OK-CADP Chair said, “Just look at the disparity in Oklahoma’s annual expenditures for 2011-12: we spent $27,684 per prisoner for maximum security, and only $8,058 per student for public education.”
According to the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE), an estimated 1.3 million American high school students drop out every year. A disproportionate number are youth of color.
Garcetti said, “If you can focus on working to keep kids in school and help them to graduate, you’ll reduce crime generally, and I’m sure you’ll reduce the number of homicides.”
“Both sides now agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent to other murders,” Garcetti said. “So all it is really is vengeance. We cannot bring back a murdered loved one. But we can help prevent future similar tragedies by using our very limited financial resources in smarter ways than to finance a law that serves no useful purpose.”
For more information about the OK-CADP Spring Membership and Awards Dinner, visit okcadp.org.