Debra J. Saunders

He cited cases like that of John Gardner. After the convicted sex offender was arrested for the murder of 17-year-old Chelsea King in 2010, Gardner went for a deal. He admitted to killing King and also to the 2009 murder and attempted rape of 14-year-old Amber Dubois. Gardner even led authorities to Amber's bones.

Parents Brent and Kelly King agreed to the plea bargain because, they said in a statement covered by CBS News, their family had been through "unthinkable hell" for 14 months. "We couldn't imagine the confession to Amber's murder never seeing the light of day, leaving an eternal question mark," they said.

"You take the death penalty off the table," Klaas told the Chronicle, and communities will be held hostage to the fear and uncertainty that follow when a young person goes missing. "Crimes will not be solved. Victims will not be recovered."

Without the death penalty, it is doubtful that Jared Lee Loughner would have pleaded guilty to a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., during which he killed six and wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Given his history of mental illness, it's not clear whether Loughner would have been found guilty.

Even when it doesn't work, the death penalty works.

California prosecutors and California juries do not reach the death penalty lightly. Sacramento Deputy District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert estimates that death row inmates represent less than 2 percent of those convicted for murder.

At least with the death penalty on the books, there's a good chance that some of the worst offenders will agree to a sentence of life without parole in order to avoid lethal injection.

In such cases, there is quick resolution and certainty of outcome, and victims' families need not worry about an offender's getting off, because the defendant has no grounds for appeals. All of the outcomes that the anti-death penalty lobby extols -- cheaper, faster and more certain -- exist only because of the death penalty.

Why would Californians want to get rid of it?

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Debra J. Saunders

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