Lon Allan: Panels to debate death penalty

Special to The TribuneSeptember 25, 2012 

All my life, I have favored the death penalty. I have always believed it deters crime, that execution is cheaper than life sentences for our most dangerous criminals and that the timely application of the death penalty offers relief and a sense of justice served to victims’ families.

I continue to hold to the above frame of mind, but discussions lately regarding doing away with the death penalty have me questioning the practice. Proposition 34 on the upcoming November ballot is asking Californians to put an end to the death penalty.

A friend of mine who is a member of the Yes on Prop. 34 Committee sent me some information on the subject along with the dates of two seminars coming up very soon dealing with the issue.

The first panel presentation will be held Sunday at 7 p.m. at Oak Creek Commons, 635 Nicklaus Ave. in Paso Robles. Guest panelists include Jay Adams, Ph.D., clinical psychologist with 10 years at the California Men’s Colony; The Rev. Lyle Grosjean, a death penalty opponent/activist for 50 years; Jaimee Karroll, a survivor of a violent crime and now a teacher at San Quentin; and Tom Parker, former deputy chief agent for the Los Angeles region of the FBI. I got to know and respect the Rev. Grosjean when he served as pastor of the local Episcopal Church many years ago.

There will be an opportunity to ask questions at this event.

The next night, Monday, there will be a panel discussion in the Chumash Auditorium at Cal Poly at 7 p.m. In addition to the Rev. Grosjean, Adams, Parker and Karroll, this panel will include Lesley Becker, graduating senior of Poly’s social science department, and Chris Bickel, professor of sociology at Cal Poly.

I’m interested in learning more about the whole subject. Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is quoted in material I received from the Yes on Prop. 34 folks as saying, “I have inquired for most of my adult life about studies that might show that the death penalty is a deterrent. And I have not seen any research that would substantiate that point.”

I remember a crime scene here in Atascadero where two young people had just been killed. Their small children were protected by their mother’s body. I was glad when the killer was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty. That was almost 30 years ago. I still think he deserves to die for what he did.

But at this stage of my life, I find myself questioning a lot of what I thought I believed.

I have a lot of homework to do between now and Nov. 6.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades, and his column appears weekly. Reach him at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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