Voices from California's Death Row

Sergio Nelson

Hello, I hope this finds you doing well and in great health. This is in response to your survey. My response reflects my own opinion, I speak for myself, and did not consult other people on death row regarding their opinions before I responded to this survey. You have my permission to publish my words, if you choose to do so. 

1.      Would you like to see “The Justice That Works Act” passed or not?

I would not like to see the Justice that Works act pass, because it is not Justice that Works.  Why not? Please see other opinions below. 

2.      How do I feel about the replacement of life without the possibility of Parole (LWOP), instead of the death penalty? 

LWOP is another, longer, more torturous form of the death penalty. 

3.      How do you feel about the requirement that all those with LWOP sentences have to work (this would include all t hose currently on death row)?

I feel that someone clearly didn’t think that through. Please see response to next question.

4.      How do you feel about the mandate that all those with LWOP sentences would have to pay 60% of their wages earned toward restitution if they have orders in their case?

The 60% for restitution withdrawn from wages earned?? Can you guarantee that all those with LWOP will earn a wage? No, you cannot. Even if they are willing to work, jobs are limited and already have a waiting list. Not to mention those that would be ineligible (a lot) due to their classification status and health issues. What about those that don’t wish to work? You can’t make them. They have no incentive to do so.  

5.      There is also a ballot initiative called "The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act" that seeks to speed up executions. If both pass, the one with the most votes will go into effect. Does that change how people should vote? 

The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act and the Justice That Works Act are both misleading. So, no,  that does not change how people should vote. They should vote “No” for both. 

Does that change your opinion of the Justice That Works Act? 

It does not change my opinion of the Justice that Works Act. Both remain unconstitutional and misleading.  

6.      If you have other opinions about these initiatives please tell us.

The ballot initiative speaks of justice as if it is a cost savings venture, an item on a budget to be dealt with. Are lives bought so cheaply? Is it because Justice wears her blindfold that she should be rob blindly? Okay, so let’s translate life to numbers, and count them in dollars and cents. Using this system, let’s count the cost….all of it. Not just the front end, as in the ballot. The first five years you save money?? Not necessarily true. Take into account the cost of health care. And since these lives do age, they will require treatments and trips to the hospital, care that the elderly normally require. So what you thought you were saving on the front end (near future) you are giving back on the back end, with health care. The taxpayers pay for that also. There is no such thing as cheaper. Especially when you count both the cost of housing and health care.  

It says more than 150 innocent people have been sentenced to death in this country, and some innocent people have been executed, that they are aware of. 

What about the people they are not aware of? When those 150 innocent people were sentenced and/or executed, where was the certain justice for grieving families there? Was that not a miscarriage of justice to all parties involved (the innocent, their families and the grieving families)? To state that LWOP is swift and certain justice? What about for the innocent people that are still unknown? Is it justice that they stay in prison forever (or until death)? If the purpose is to eliminate the risk of executing an innocent person, why sentence those same innocent people to death by another name? Is that fair? Would you say the same if it was your family member that was the innocent one fighting for justice to be served through appeals?

Just so we are clear, that LWOP is a sentence of death. A person with that sentence is meant to die in prison…After what could be a very long life that tortures and punishes the families, as well as the person sentenced. 

Speaking of fairness and justice, I’d like nothing more. Both bills propose to eliminate the state habeas for condemned inmates. Yet, by California State Constitutional law, all California prisoners have the right to file a state habeas appeal. Is it fair and just to discriminate against a class of prisoners? Should not the state be allowed to ensure that they have the correct and proper sentence? A just sentence?

For the idea of saving tax dollars, the ballot initiative would be willing to divert justice by giving everyone a long protracted, torturous death sentence? Even those that could be innocent? Or could actually be rehabilitated, and in some way contribute to the productivity of society? What happens when that idea of saving tax dollars vanishes in smoke with ailing health issues? It is discovered that a vote cast for either initiative, is not an act of fairness and justice. It is a vote that says there is no redeeming value for those that may be innocent or for their life. Because it is a vote for death. A vote to prevent justice from being served. Where is the ’justice for all’ in all this? 

Sadly, I’d say it is in a “no” vote for both. Until a proper remedy can be found to fix a broken system. Not aborting the process of the justice system that is in progress. Hearings, and cases that are under review to determine if the proper and correct sentence was made, if an innocent is being held, and most importantly, if justice is being served. 

Thank you for your time and allowing me to share my opinion. 

Sincerely, in the interest of Justice, 

Sergio Nelson