Our Prediction that California's Billy Joe Johnson Would Help the Fight Against the Death Penalty Proves True
Right before Halloween, we posted about the new Death Penalty Information Center revelation that focusing solely on a state's budget bottom line, capital punishment should be outlawed because it just costs too much -- and how Billy Joe Johnson's request to be sentenced to death in California only added fuel to that fire. (Billy Joe wanted death because the digs at California's Death Row are so much better than those for lifers.)
Well, looks like that October prediction was right and Billy Joe Johnson is doing a lot to help the cause of Abolishing the Death Penalty.
The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog is pointing to Billy Joe Johnson in California, and publishing a quote from Johnson's attorney that originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times -- Billy Jo isn't asking for Death Row because "...' he thinks conditions wiil be better, they are better," explains defense counsel Michael Molfetta.
The Los Angeles Times has a lengthy feature article that actually goes into the details surrounding Billy Joe Johnson's decision (and yes, his request was granted and he has been sentenced to death by the State of California). According to the LA Times, on California's Death Row:
1. inmates get single cells, they don't have to share a two bunk cell
2. their cells are bigger than the standard maximum-security cells for lifers
3. inmates get better telephone access
4. they are allowed "contact visits" by themselves, although the visit is in a see-through plexiglass booth (lifers have to visit in a communal hall, no one on one contact)
5. they get breakfast and dinner served to them in their cells
6. Lunch is served in the exercise yard, so they get to go outside daily
7. Death Row inmates are allowed to visit with other Death Row inmates during the lunch hour
8. Death Row inmates get to have TVs, CD Players, and the like in their cells
9. While other inmates are limited to six cubit feet of personal property, this doesn't apply to California Death Row inmates
10. They get to wear jeans and chambray shirts
This description of life on California's Death Row is getting lots of attention -- all because Billy Joe Johnson's request has taken flight. The prison authorities have good reasons for each of the list's purported "benefits" -- for example, Death Row inmates get more than 6 cubic feet of personal property space because their cases are so voluminous, they need more square footage than that for all the paperwork that their defense requires. Similarly, they get more lenient phone rules than the usual inmate because they are literally fighting for their lives and there are times when communication with their counsel by phone is immediately needed and legally vital.
Still, proponents of the Death Penalty may look upon this list with outrage and think that Billy Joe Johnson is somehow working the system by asking to die. And, if that enables the Death Penalty Information Center's study on costs to get more footing, great.
Because the goal is to end the death penalty, and if capital punishment is stopped for no other reason that it costs too much, fine. The goal is to stop the State form killing people, period.