Debra J. Saunders
Recently, editorial page editor John Diaz asked Mark Klaas whether he expects to feel closure if California executes Richard Allen Davis, the man who kidnapped, toyed with and then killed Klaas' 12-year-old daughter, Polly, in 1993. A jury found Davis guilty and sentenced him to death in 1996.

From the early days after Davis snatched Polly from a Petaluma slumber party, Klaas has been a highly visible advocate for strong laws to protect the public, especially children, from career criminals and predators like Davis. He had come to the San Francisco Chronicle with other opponents of Proposition 34, the ballot measure that would end California's death penalty and resentence California's 700-plus death row inmates to life without parole.

Klaas' answer may surprise you. He sadly shook his head and answered, "Is it going to bring any closure to me? No."

But, Klaas added, Davis "will no longer be able to run his website." Young girls no longer will write to him.

It turns out the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty hosts a Richard Allen Davis home page, on which the convicted killer displays "hand-painted wood hobby craft items," which he made, and posts photos of himself. Davis also wonders whether there's anyone out there who wants to know who he really is, and he asks, "For someone like myself, can one ever fall back in love with life again?"

Davis invites interested parties to write to him at San Quentin.

Klaas wants to see Davis executed, he told me later, because the man who killed his daughter should have no influence in this world. That, he emphasized, is "what's supposed to stop."

Good luck with that. Thanks to a highly successful defense lobby and federal judges who have stalled the enforcement of California law, only 13 of the state's death row inmates have been executed since 1992.

So now the folks behind Proposition 34 argue that California's death penalty is "too costly" and "broken beyond repair." End the death penalty, they say, and Californians will save money on sentencing trials, costly appeals and "special death row housing."

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that the savings could amount to $100 million annually in the first few years.

There's a caveat with that number. The Legislative Analyst's Office also noted that it cannot compute the financial effect that might follow if murderers stopped pleading guilty and making plea bargains that enable them to avoid death row.

As Klaas sees it, the anti-death penalty lobby is asking Californians to disarm themselves unilaterally.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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