photo: Richard Harris
First story: it seems that there is a surge towards the yes on 34 vote in California. Proposition 34 will repeal the California death penalty. Sounds great, Americans beginning to understand the uselessness and barbarity of the death penalty.*** But it turns out that the surge is due to an economic argument: the death penalty is more expensive than incarceration:
"...Part of the reason for the growing support is an understanding of the inaccurate belief that many previously held that the death penalty was less expensive than life in jail without parole, according to ABC.
But in fact, Prop 34 is expected to save the state about $130 million annually because death row sentencing appeals would cease. With the money saved, Prop 34 would give $100 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies for homicide and rape cases.
And it's this fiscal argument for repealing the death penalty that has attracted unlikely supporters, including Fox News conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly, Fox & Hounds reports. In general, liberals support repealing the death penalty, and conservatives oppose it. But Ron Briggs, El Dorado County Supervisor, explained O'Reilly's position and why Briggs himself, who previously campaigned to strengthen the death penalty, have joined the "Yes on Prop 34" camp.
"California’s death penalty is simply a fiscal disaster that coddles criminals, enriches lawyers, and hurts victims," Briggs wrote..."
Second story: Daniel Larsen is in prison in California for a 28 year sentence for carrying a concealed knife. He has served 13 years so far. Two years ago he was found innocent but he is still in prison due to an appeal filed on a technicality by the California Attorney General. He contracted diabetes in prison and is in danger of dying without the proper care which he is not being provided:
"Daniel Larsen, 46, has spent almost 13 years in prison -- even though he was declared innocent by a federal judge two years ago. Now, his life is at risk because of uncontrolled diabetes for which he's not getting the care he needs, his wife Christina Larsen told The Huffington Post.
Daniel Larsen, imprisoned at the LA County California State Prison, was diagnosed in August with Type 1 diabetes after he fell into a diabetic coma as a result of the treatment the prison hospital gave him for another illness, according to Christina Larsen. Since then, Daniel Larsen has tried various insulin drugs, and none have stabilized his blood sugar.
Christina Larsen said her husband's blood sugar on Friday had risen to the level registered when he went into the diabetic coma. Two days earlier, a prison doctor had given him a new prescription for an insulin injection called NovoLog. But a prison hospital aide later told Larsen the institution doesn't carry the drug, so he continues taking his old medicine that doesn't control his blood sugar level, Christina Larsen said.
Larsen's prison diet also causes his blood sugar to spike, his wife said. The prison serves him meals high in carbohydrates, such as rice and potatoes, because he's vegetarian and has refused to give him a diabetic diet.
"His life is in serious danger because he's not getting the proper medical attention that he has a right to as a human being," Christina Larsen said. "I'm trying to do whatever I can to get him the proper care, but what he really needs is to be home where he can get the care he needs."
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not respond to HuffPost's request for comment.
Christina Larsen and Daniel Larsen, both from the San Fernando Valley, have known each other for 15 years. They got married inside the prison a few weeks ago (photo above).
Daniel Larsen is serving a sentence of 28 years to life under California's controversial three-strikes law for a 1999 conviction for possessing a concealed knife. But in 2010, a federal judge overturned the conviction and said Larsen's constitutional rights had been violated because his attorney was incompetent. The court said Larsen was "actually innocent" under the law because it had no confidence in the trial.
Despite the ruling, Larsen wasn't released. California Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the federal judge's decision based on the technicality that Larsen's lawyers missed the deadline for filing an appeal.
Nearly 130,000 people have signed Christina Larsen’s petition on Change.org calling on Harris to drop her opposition to Daniel Larsen's release. The Los Angeles Times editorial board, California Innocence Project and the ACLU of California have also called on Harris to free Larsen.
Larsen's case is at the intersection of California's failed prison health care system and a controversial law that may be changed. In 2005, a federal judge took control of California’s prison health care system because an average of one inmate was dying each week from “incompetence and at times outright depravity," according to the judge.
The law that handed Larsen a 28-year sentence -- the three-strikes law -- is the subject of a Nov. 6 ballot measure, Prop 36. The current law mandates sentences of 25 years to life for people who commit three or more serious crimes, even if the third offense is a misdemeanor.
Prop 36 would change the law so that the third strike must be a felony. In the latest poll of California voters, 63 percent were in favor of Prop 36, and 22 percent were opposed. If the proposition passes, Larsen may be able to petition for a reduced sentence.
Shum Preston, a spokesman for the state Justice Department and Harris' office, wrote in an email to HuffPost, "We want a speedy resolution to this legal question as well." Preston declined to say more, citing legal reasons."
*** From The Atlantic Monthly:
"The club of prisoner-executing nations is an inauspicious one. You've got the world's great dictatorships and autocracies (Iran, Zimbabwe, China, North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cuba, Belarus), its most failed and failing states (Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Congo, Chad, Yemen, Guinea, Bangladesh), not to mention the entire Middle East save Israel.
So who's left? Which countries use the death penalty but are neither among the world's most failed states nor its most autocratic? The outliers make a strange list: India, Japan, Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and the United States. This is our league of capital punishment nations. Whatever the legal, ethical, social, and political arguments for and against the death penalty, its role in U.S. foreign policy, especially at a time when we are trying to convince leaders around the world to loosen restrictions and democratize, can be burdensome."