My name is Richard Valdez, and I’m calling from San Quentin, CA Death Row. The piece I’m about to read is “They Sold California a Lie.”
When Prop 66 was brought to California voters by its proponents, it was sold to them as a way to streamline their broken death penalty system. Politicians, state lobbyists, and lawmakers who supported it, like snake oil salesman, wolves, peddled the dream that California’s death penalty could be made into one like Texas or Oklahoma.
They pushed the idea that the constitutionally guaranteed appeals process, that those condemned would become more limited and completed in record times. They told the tale of how they could force the courts to work under their timeline and how fast this law would make those who are condemned be subject to toil away, working low-paying prison jobs until their execution dates. They promised to those who would listen that this was the solution to what has already been proven time and time again are broken beyond repair death penalty system. They sold California a lie.
Those who pushed this bad piece of legislation on California fully well knew what its limitations would be. The authors and major political proponents, such as Dan Lungren, Pete Wilson, and George Deukmejian, were all versed in the varying forms of state government and even the law itself, because they have been part of California politics and its systems for decades. It was some of their own bad pieces of legislation pushed and enacted over the years that created the need to repair this broken system in the first place. And yet, once again, they were allowed to sell California voters on a bill that they knew would never come to fruition.
Thus far, the only thing that Prop 66 has accomplished is that it has made an already biased and proven racially disproportionate broken death penalty system even more convoluted and in need of greater repairs. There has been no miraculous speeding up of the court system so that death penalty appeals can be heard and brought to finality. There’s been no fixing of this system in any way, shape, or form. The only thing that this piece of legislation has done is to subject those of us who are condemned to further unconstitutional delays in the appeals process that California taxpayers up for an even higher price to pay in the future and further break what was already in need of serious repair in the first place, all because of the lies that were sold as the truth.
My name is Richard J. Valdez, and I am a California condemned prisoner who has been subject to this system for nearly a quarter of a century now and who continues to fight for its change every day. Your help is needed in this cause.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.