In California, Killers Sit on 'Symbolic' Death Row for Decades, Costing Billions

In California, Killers Sit on ‘Symbolic’ Death Row for Decades, Costing Billions

On June 28, 1984, a young man broke into the home of 79-year-old Jennie Vincow in Los Angeles. Over the course of a few hours he ransacked the elderly woman’s apartment, raped her and repeatedly stabbed her. He then slashed her throat so badly that she was nearly decapitated. Her son found her body the next day.
It was the beginning of a spree of murder, rape and burglary that gripped Southern California for 14 months — until Richard Ramirez, a 24-year-old drifter from El Paso, Texas, was arrested in Los Angeles. By then, the man who had come to be known as “the Night Stalker” had killed no fewer than 13 people and brutally raped and disfigured several more, including:

• Vincent and Maxine Zazza. Vincent, 64, was found in his home with a bullet hole in his temple. His wife, Maxine, 44, was found naked in her bed, her eyes gouged out and with stab wounds on her face, neck, breasts, abdomen and groin.
• Elyas Abowath, 35, who was shot in the head while he slept. Ramirez allowed Abowath’s wife, 29, to live — after he raped and sodomized her.
• Lela and Max Kneiding, both 66, found shot to death and mutilated with a machete.
Ramirez’s crimes were marked by the satanic pentagrams he left on his victims and the sexual abuse of women who were sometimes forced to sing praises of Satan before he raped them.
No one — including Ramirez himself — doubts that his killing spree earned him a cell on California’s death row. When he was found guilty of capital murder in 1989, he remarked, “Big deal. Death always went with the territory.”

But so far, it hasn’t. For the past 21 years, Richard Ramirez has sat in a single cell on death row in San Quentin, and he is still years away from his last meal. According to experts familiar with his case, the ritual killer is “only about halfway through the appeals process” that will end in his execution.

If that process continues at its present pace, Ramirez, who committed most of his crimes when he was in his mid-20s, won’t be put to death until he is 71 years old — if he lives that long.

That a man could sit nearly 50 years on death row isn’t surprising — especially in California, where critics of the state’s system say the odds of a convicted killer actually living long enough to be put to death are about 100 to one. Most prisoners sentenced to execution, studies and experts say, simply die of old age or other illnesses while in prison as the appeals process grinds on.
“The death penalty is purely symbolic in California,” says Natasha Minsker, who just completed a study of the death penalty in California for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. With almost 700 people on death row in the state, the study found not only that maintaining a prison and legal system to support the death penalty cost the state billions of dollars, but that, for all the money spent, the penalty is rarely used. Since 1977 only 13 people have been executed. During the same period, 59 death row inmates died of old age or other infirmities.

What is most surprising about Ramirez’s appeals is that there is nothing extraordinary about them. It is the same process every prisoner on death row goes through. By law, every death sentence in California has to be appealed and reviewed by the state’s Supreme Court to ensure that no one who is innocent faces the ultimate penalty.

Send him to Texas; We’ll hook him up!

Once you are found guilty of a premeditated, first degree murder, you should be given spiritual advice, a last meal, than executed humanely, and swifltly, within one year. Give you appeals, and make sure your guilty. This is in order to protect the citizenry, (even those in prison and prison guards), and as a deterrent to others thinking about doing the same ghastly deed as you did.

I don’t think I could agree with someone more than agree with you now.

According to the DOJ’s own reports, the cost to keep inmates in prison for their lives is dwarfed by the cost to conduct a capital murder trial. If we are interested in saving money, abolishing the death penalty is much more effective than promptly killing all those we finally convict after a considerably more expensive trial.

Another good reason to follow the teaching of the Catholic Church prohibiting the death penalty unless there is an imminent threat to public safety & give these murderers life in prison without parole.

Make them think about what they did & spend endless hours alone with God. Hopefully some of them will repent & let Jesus into their hearts & use their lives in prison for some good, perhaps writing their story or giving interviews to teach others the errors of their ways!

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Ro 12:21)

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!


I think the death penalty can be done quicker (certainly) and far more cheaply than it is currently being done. I admit it. I am quite cold blooded on this kind of thing…and before anyone says it: Yes. I have seen three executions when I was still working with AP and any number of crime and accident scenes.

I’ve also heard the idea that the death penalty would be expanded to include a set list of crimes that simply fall under a heading of gross inhumanity (torture killings, forcible rape, child molestation, torture with permanent physical injury, mass murder, etc.) I think that is a very good idea. Something else that should be a capital offense that many would disagree with is money laundering. drug dealers, killers, etc. are used to having death as a possibility. But, what allows such criminal enterprises to exist is money laundering. Execute a couple of rich white bankers who always wore suits to work and watch the drug cartels start vanishing in a hurry. There is some truth to that.

I’ve also heard the argument that once convicted and placed on death row prisoners should be tissue typed. When someone in need of an organ transplant matched you…you’re done. Sounds extreme to me, but it would be nice if that could be a voluntary thing for those on death row.

He got married in 1996. :stuck_out_tongue:

I agree. Life without parole is a meaningful punishment, there’s no possibility of putting an innocent man to death, and if it turns out some years later that the man was actually innocent, then the only cost to the state would be the statutory payments for wrongful imprisonment.

One of the only things we in Canada got right. We abolished the death penalty 34 years ago.

Steven Truscott was a big force behind that in Canada, having been sentenced to hang at the ripe old age of 14 for a crime he never committed.

It’s easy for us to say, if we’ve never been the victims of violent crime. Never forget the victims, they have the right to want retribution.

this precisely enunciates the reason why I am against the death penalty, because it never gets carried out (except in Texas). So we pay not only the cost of warehousing the criminals, but all this endless legal expense that clogs up the courts for real business.

the constitution assures swift judgment and punishment. anything that thwarts that is unconstitutional. there should be two appeals allowed, one on fact, one on law and procedure, and no capital conviction allowed on hearsay or circumstantial evidence, and no capital sentence against a juvenile. after that, it’s over. anything more cruel and unjust than allowing someone to linger in the twilight of death row for 20 years is hard to imagine.

Yes, indeed. That’s why we have prisons, to lock up those who have victimized us by their various felonious crimes.

That doesn’t mean they have the right to get it. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” If there is no other way to keep the criminals out of society, if their existence puts the innocent at risk, the death penalty is acceptable. If not, its not. Vengeance is not an acceptable reason for an execution.

The first thing to hit my mind reading that was “To what?”


**Lethal Injection Consists Of: **

*]Sodium Thiopental (lethal dose - sedates person)
*]Pancuronium Bromide (muscle relaxant-collapses diaphragm and lungs)
*]Potassium Chloride (stops heart beat)
*]The offender is usually pronounced dead approximately 7 minutes after the lethal injection begins.
[/LIST]Cost per execution for drugs used : $86.08
**Average Time on Death Row prior to Execution: **

10.26 years

It’s not for vengence. It’s a deterrent and a public saftey issue so that none of us got killed or maimed by these thugs out there.

Look at this way-if that monster in California (the one arrested recently) had been executed, several little girls would be alive today.

This isn’t about letting anyone loose. Life imprisonment without parole is intended for those like that man.

As the Church teaches, there must be a justification for the death penalty that indicates that incarceration is insufficient (e.g., in a max security prison). One justification put forth is if the prisoner murders a guard or another prisoner in a maximum security jail. Then, continued incarceration there wouldn’t be enough.

I don’t disagree with that, really. I personally support the death penalty for my stated reasons, but if life in prison meant life in prison, than I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with anti-death penalty people like I do know. Too many anti-death penalty people are self righteous (no, I’m not saying any of you are, but there is a strong self righteous streak among anti death penalty people) who forget the victims.

I responded to your post when you said that the victims have the right to want retribution. And on some level (based on your later posts that I’m not quoting), I mostly agree with you that the problem is that life in prison does not mean life in prison. But my belief is that we ought to make life in prison mean life in prison, and only execute those that we cannot keep there.

I am against the death penalty however until the State of Texas can lock a murder up for the rest of their life with no possibility of being released so they will murder again I say abolish the death penalty.
No State or Country has done this!
So we must keep the death penalty and put these lowlife scumbags down!

Here is a good example of why we still need capital punishment:
Kenneth McDuff was first convicted for raping and murdering three teenagers on August 6, 1966 — Robert Brand, Mark Dunman, and Edna Louis Sullivan — a crime that became popularly known as the Broomstick Murders. His partner, 17-year-old Roy Dale Green, was sentenced to four months house arrest and five years probation.

Although McDuff was sentenced to death, the sentence was overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court abolished capital punishment in 1972. His sentence was subsequently commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole

As a result of overcrowding in Texas prisons, McDuff was paroled in 1989. After being released, he got a job at a gas station making $4 an hour and took a class, at Texas State Technical College in Waco. One year after he left his job at a gas station and dropped out of TSTC, he began killing again. Upon release McDuff was arrested on a series of parole violations, but he was never locked up for any substantial length of time until he was arrested for the murder of a 22-year-old Texan woman, Melissa Ann Northrup in 1992. He was implicated in at least three other murders, including the abduction and murder of Colleen Reed from an Austin carwash in December 1991…
Known victims of this murderer:

There would be a Fort Worth police officer alive today if we could have kept these scumbags locked up:

The Texas Seven

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit