Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/15/1996 01:45 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 52 - ADVISORY VOTE ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT HB 481 - CAPITAL PUNISHMENT FOR CHILD MURDER CHAIRMAN PORTER suggested that the pending testimony be taken in combination to the legislation scheduled for hearing since the subject matters are interconnected. Number 312 RACHEL KING, Director, Alaskans Against the Death Penalty, testified on SB 52 and HB 481. Ms. King offered that the committee was probably already aware of the problems in the other states with the death penalty provisions, such as racial bias, the additional costs, the lack of deterrent value, and the fact that innocent people are being executed. She stated that she wouldn't concentrate on HB 481, but on SB 52. MS. KING stated that there have been polls conducted in Alaska and she would concede that if this question was posed to the voters next November, the majority of Alaskans would in fact support capital punishment. She believes this is because Alaska has not heard any informed debate about this issue. Alaska has not a death penalty in this state for almost 40 years. There is no reason why Alaskans would be familiar with problems of the death penalty. In fact, many Alaskans are unfamiliar with the criminal justice system in general. MS. KING referred to a nationwide, bi-partisan poll conducted about three years ago which showed that most Americans support the death penalty for two reasons, fear and cost. They believe that most people convicted of murder serve less than seven years in jail and they believe that the death penalty will save them money. This is why they support the death penalty. Based on this poll, Alaskans against the Death Penalty commissioned a poll of their own, the results of which she referred to on poster board for the committee's review. MS. KING said that as part of this poll they asked participants the question that if a person is convicted in Alaska for first degree murder and sentenced to life, how long did they think that the convicted person would serve in jail before paroled and released back into society. 37 percent said between 1 and 9 years, 23 percent said between 10 and 14, 18 percent said between 15 and 20 and on down the line. Only 1 percent of Alaskans knew the correct answer which was 51 years or more. The fact is, the average sentence for all first degree murders in Alaska is between 80 and 90 years. In the type of case which would be a death eligible case, the typical sentence is 99 years without parole. If it is a multiple homicide, then the sentence would be multiple 99 year sentences. MS. KING continued that 78 percent of Alaskans believe that people sentenced to murder in the first degree get less than 20 years in jail. In fact, this is a legal impossibility. 20 years is the mandatory minimum. Alaskans believe that people are serving lenient sentences and they believe they need a death penalty to make them safe. MS. KING added that the second question asked was, which did they believe cost more, the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Again, 74 percent said life in prison cost more, 21 percent said the death penalty and 5 percent said they were unsure. Every state that has studied this issue has found that they are spending between two and six times more money on the death penalty than on life in prison. She gave the committee a copy of a report entitled, "Millions Misspent," which substantiates all of the figures which she outlined. MS. KING stated that if they take this issue to the voters next fall, the voters will think they will be saving money and that they will be protecting themselves. In fact, they are already protected from dangerous criminals and they will be spending a lot more money by voting for the death penalty. This money could be spend towards other crime prevention programs. She asked the committee to vote against SB 52 and to issue a press release explaining to the public why the death penalty is a bad idea and why the advisory ballot is a bad idea. MS. KING summed up her comments by noting that there has been many times in the history of the United States where laws were later proved to be unjust, yet enjoyed a majority opinion such as, slavery, Jim Crow laws, no voting rights for women, etc. These are all examples of law that if a popular poll was taken at that time the majority opinion would have been in support of these laws. Over time, we learn that these laws are unfair and unjust. She submitted to the committee that this is what's happening with the death penalty worldwide. Countries are moving away from the death penalty, even South Africa abolished the death penalty last year. 39 years ago Alaska had the foresight as a territory to abolish the death penalty. MS. KING stated that she is staying with an individual named Burke Riley who was one of the original territorial legislators who voted for abolition of the death penalty back in 1957, and she asked him why he voted against it. His response was that it was inhumane and unfair and we all realized that. Alaska realized this 40 years ago and she asked the committee not to repeat this same dark history that Alaska has already visited. Number 657 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE asked Ms. King about an ad campaign on television against the death penalty and wondered if they would continue with this campaign if this bill were to pass. MS. KING responded that this ad campaign was sponsored by Amnesty International and she referred to a booklet provided to the committee which contains most of these ads. This was National Amnesty which gave a grant. Ms. King's organization has a very small budget, she stated that she's practically a volunteer although she is the Executive Director and they don't have a lot of resources. Yes, she said they would continue to run ads such as this although she's not convinced they would have enough money to thoroughly educate the public anyhow. Number 743 SENATOR ROBIN TAYLOR came forward as sponsor to SB 52. He noted that this bill was a simple one and provided for an advisory ballot question, yes or no, on whether or not to re-institute capital punishment in the state of Alaska. He believed that the question is not so simplistic that people will be confused by or that they will disregard or not take into consideration other options. One of the other options is that Alaska has very lengthy sentencing available. He noted that it's not uncommon to read about someone in the press who has received a 99 year sentence. "As a consequence, the argument is made that because of the emotionalism or some desire of vengeance on the part of the public that that would carry the day over and beyond the contemplation of what existing sentencing structures truly relate to as far as the amount of time people actually are serving and I was concerned about that argument when it was raised and with no prompting I might add from my office, I didn't know he was doing it." Mr. Dittman, of Dittman Reach Corporation of Alaska ran a poll of 555 Alaskans where that very question was asked and the results of the poll were that 62 percent of the public still favors the death penalty over the possibility of a sentence where a person would receive life without the benefit of parole. He noted that this was a death sentence no matter what it's called. SENATOR TAYLOR stated that when asked, the people voted 2 to 1 in favor of reinstituting the death penalty. Thirty-three percent favored life without parole and 62 percent favored the death penalty, 5 percent were unsure. He cited that this was an interesting number. Statistically whenever they take polls in Alaska and there is a number as low as 5 percent in the unsure category, this is a very small amount. This is a low number and it indicated to him that the public has thought about this quite a bit, enough that they have made up their mind. Number 949 REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY said she is a strong believer in the death penalty, but what she's not a strong believer in the $5 to $7 million per appeal these people are allowed. She understood that there was some legislation being considered in Congress to limit this appeal process. She asked how close they were to this and she thought that this issue would sway the committee to vote for or against this legislation. SENATOR TAYLOR felt as though there was legislation on the federal front and he thought that whatever state legislation to come out of this proposed initiative would begin the debate of what they could do as a state procedurally. Once they get to this point there are several things which they can do on a state level which would not violate the constitutional rights which can limit the number and types of appeals. He knew the federal government was working very hard on this. He noted that they've already limited habeas corpus appeals and pleas significantly, not that he would want to see anyone's opportunity for a fair hearing cut off, but implied with Representative Toohey's question is a fact of life everyone has become very frustrated with the fact that it takes 8 to 12 years before these people are sentenced even before the appeal process has been concluded. He thought that this was an inordinately long period. Justice delayed is justice denied and it's a very expensive process. SENATOR TAYLOR added that the cost of the death penalty case may be high, but no one ever takes into consideration the number of cases which plead out because their only other option is to go through a trial where they might risk a death penalty sentence. In fact, the young people who killed the German tourists in Florida, one of them plead out to get a 44 year sentence without benefit of parole, because he plead guilty to felony murder. Had he not done so, this trial would probably have cost a million dollars since he could have been sentenced to death. Number 1116 REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN asked what was the reason behind not making a decision on this issue in the legislature. SENATOR TAYLOR responded that to be perfectly candid, he felt as though there was enough resistance in the legislature right now and there existed narrow enough philosophical groups that it would be difficult to pass it. "The main reason I believe that we need to probably turn to the public one more time is to see if we can bring back to these halls people more representative of the public's philosophy on that question or at least people who will come down here and say yes, 75 percent of my constituents said they want this, I'm personally opposed to it, but I will make my own choice, as we all have to. At this point they can say 'well I don't think that many people support it,' or they'll say, 'it's a bad question,' the question isn't being phrased right or whatever." REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN offered that they might say, "it's not a good idea." SENATOR TAYLOR said certainly and that he didn't denigrate these reasons. He thought some of them were good reasons to oppose it. He stated that it made him feel good when these executions occur and there are a groups of people standing in the cold and the rain. It made him feel good that there is some human compassion and concern about these individuals. Number 949 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE referred to other referendums initiated by the legislature and wondered if this initiative went one way or the other, would it be binding on the legislature as to whether or not they choose to act. SENATOR TAYLOR responded that this was absolutely correct. "I think that there does come a time when it becomes more difficult or maybe you become a bit more accountable to the public regarding their desires on various issues." He noted that the state of California, through their Supreme Court threw out their death penalty and then offered that the state of California at the next election threw out their Supreme Court. These things can have impacts. Number 1271 REPRESENTATIVE BEVERLY MASEK testified as sponsor to HB 481. She introduced HB 481 to save the lives of children. Under the current system of justice when a sexual predator strikes they have no incentive to preserve their young victim's life. This legislation is to serve as notice to any predator who would consider murdering their victim for any reason and an indicator that they may be forfeiting their own life in the process. She wanted to keep this bill narrow and aimed at saving children's lives. By giving the death penalty as an option, she pointed out that it was not an mandatory measure. The jury has the option to impose the death penalty. This would require a majority vote from a jury. If one person opposes the death penalty, the capital punishment provision would not be imposed. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK continued by stating that she hoped this bill would save some lives which otherwise might be lost by sexual predators. She referred to a newspaper article disseminated to the committee about a man who claimed he molested 200 children. In some of his letters to the victims parents he said he was doomed to repeat his crimes and kill the victims in order that they wouldn't be able to identify him. HB 481 would send a message to these predators that their behavior will not be tolerated. She stated that this was a sensitive issue, but when it came to saving children they must do all that they can. Alaska has one of the highest rates of child abuse and there is no reason why children have to suffer from these serious offenses. Number 1537 LISA RIEGER, Justice Program, University of Alaska testified by teleconference from Anchorage on SB 52 and HB 481. She stated that she has two young children, one of them is almost three. Ms. Rieger offered that she opposes both these bills. In regard to the advisory bill she responded to a few of Senator Taylor comments. First, the cost factor, the expense of the appeals that are available to people convicted with the death penalty are not necessarily where the costs start to accrue. She used the example of the O.J. Simpson trial and the expense of it before any appeal was filed. MS. RIEGER stated that she used to practice law in California and was involved with death penalty litigation. One case she noted in particular took seven months of court time. There were two separate juries impaneled, each of which used 180 citizens in order to obtain a jury pool. This case went to trial four years after the initial offense. There were two attorneys on each side, all of whom were paid by the state. It consumed seven months of court time with court personnel and juries. MS. RIEGER also referred to a comment made by the Senator to use the death penalty as a negotiating tool, which is a disingenuous use of prosecution, to use the death penalty so people will plead guilty in order to avoid trial. The third point she wanted to make when in California practicing law, the California Supreme Court did not throw out the death penalty. It carefully assessed cases that came through of people who were convicted of the death penalty, but there were many convictions which were upheld by the court. In regards to HB 481, the deterrent of death for perpetrators not to kill their victims has been demonstrated over and over again to have absolutely no validity in dissuading people. Number 1713 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN noted their discussion earlier about these lengthy procedures and he assumed that they were all constitutionally based. If this is the case, he asked if there was anything in Alaska's constitution somehow to reduce these procedures on due process, that's different than California's constitution. MR. RIEGER responded that she didn't think so. Alaska's constitution is even stronger than California's in regards to (indisc. - coughing.) Number 1747 APRIL FERGUSON, Self-government Instructor, Kawerak, Inc. testified by teleconference from Nome on SB 52 and HB 481. Kawerak is a consortium of 20 tribes in the Bering Straights region. She was in attendance to this meeting at the request of the president to read a resolution in opposition to the reinstatement of the death penalty in Alaska into the record. WHEREAS Kawarak, Inc. is concerned with the equitable treatment of Alaska Natives within the criminal justice system; and WHEREAS Alaska Natives account for only 13.5 percent of the state's prison-age population, yet 32 percent of the jail population is comprised of Alaska Natives; and WHEREAS there is significant evidence of racial bias toward economically disadvantaged members of ethnic minorities in administration of the death penalty in other jurisdictions; and WHEREAS there is substantial concern among the Native community and no evidence to the contrary that in all likelihood the Alaska system of criminal jurisprudence is not capable of avoiding racial bias in the trial process; and WHEREAS the majority of Alaska Natives and people residing in rural areas of the state do not have the means to acquire adequate legal defense counsel when charged with serious crimes; and WHEREAS establishing a death penalty law and implementing it will cost millions of dollars and thereby deprive Alaska Natives and their communities of critical resources for service programs that focus on crime prevention; and WHEREAS Alaska Native tribes and organizations have historically opposed the death penalty as demonstrated by past actions to defeat federal death penalty legislation; NOW THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that Kawerak, Inc. is opposed to the reinstatement of the death penalty in Alaska; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Kawerak, Inc. urges rural and urban legislators alike to oppose any effort to reinstate the death penalty in Alaska. MS. FERGUSON stated that on a personal note and on her own behalf she suggested that if these bills do manage to be passed, she suggested that both of them should be amended to require a public broadcast so that this mechanistic, impersonal, bureaucratic taking of a human life does not become a dirty little business behind closed doors. Number 1853 AMY COFFMAN, Amnesty International testified on SB 52 and HB 481 by teleconference from Fairbanks. She stated that Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and referred to the third amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Ms. Coffman noted the cost to kill a person far exceeds the cost of keeping a person in prison for the remainder of their life. The death penalty is racist, sexist and classiest. No state has seen a drop in crime, while pretending to use the death penalty as a deterrent. The United States is the only westernized, industrialized nation to use the death penalty, yet it maintains the highest crime rate. MS. COFFMAN stated that innocent people have and will be murdered at the hands of the government. She did not understand why after all the facts have been presented and after numerous people have testified against the death penalty, why it is the concept of the death penalty tries to be implemented. She illustrated that it was a non-effective form of governmental murder, with reprimands violence with violence and murder with murder. She questioned putting this issue to the voters and how can the average voter be qualified to decide when they have not been given all the facts behind the death penalty. MS. COFFMAN noted that the U.S. government uses the death penalty as a scapegoat for their crime rate. She asked for them to give the people programs, not body counts. Furthermore, on the appeal situation, back in the 1970's the death penalty was determined to be unconstitutional since it didn't allow adequate time and appropriate appeal systems to appeal cases. MS. COFFMAN referred to an individual who came to Alaska from Arizona to educate a group on the death penalty. They conducted a survey following this forum and over 75 percent of the people in attendance had different thoughts from the time they walked in, who were for the death penalty, to the time that they left. Either this talk prompted further thought or their idea of the death penalty was reversed. Number 1990 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE responded to the statement made about expecting the general public to make a decision on this issue and he felt that it would be very much like a jury making a decision in trial. It appeared to him that this witness just said that, "if people are educated they will oppose the death penalty." He wondered then how she could oppose Senate Bill 52. MS. COFFMAN stated that she opposed this bill under all circumstances because she would not want to see the death penalty implemented in the state, but she found from the lecture which they gave is that people don't know all the facts. The rationale behind declaring that the death penalty was the right way to go was based on the innate idea that revenge is the answer to murder when it's not. It has not been proven to stop the number of murders which take place and in the U.S. if they put to death every person who committed a murder, they would murder 26,000 people a year. Number 2048 STEVE WILLIAMS, testified on SB 52 by teleconference from Ketchikan. He spoke against SB 52 and said it was the wrong way to create law. He said that they should leave initiatives to loony states like California. Secondly, he noted that this issue is very emotional and likened it to the logging issues in their area. He added that these types of issues need to be resolved through informed debate. Thirdly, he offered that the sentence of death is usually unfairly handed down. A prime example was O.J. Simpson, a rich black man. The prosecution made the decision not to seek the death penalty in this situation because Mr. Simpson was popular, but Mr. Williams made the argument that if this murder had involved a poor black man, this person would be sitting on death row right now. MR. WILLIAMS referred to HB 481 and agreed with Representative Masek that sick and perverted individuals are those who prey on children, but the death penalty is not a deterrent. No one goes into these heinous crimes thinking that they're going to get caught. Number 2163 JEFF GRAHAM testified against both SB 52 and HB 481 by teleconference from Kenai. He stated that he supports democratic processes, but he thought it was possible to misuse these processes as well in regards to SB 52. By offering a simple vote to the public on a complex issue could be an example of this mis-use. He thought that when considering the enactment of this death penalty, the alternatives and costs should be investigated first. Number 2208 ANNE CARPENETI, Criminal Division, Department of Law testified against SB 52 and HB 481. She stated that the Department of Law opposes both these forms of legislation. Ms. Carpeneti said that she would list all the reasons against these bills, but not necessarily in the order of importance. MS. CARPENETI initially stated that capital punishment is too expensive. The Department of Law's fiscal note reflects this. At a time when their resources are shrinking it doesn't seem worthwhile to take this much money and focus on one group of individuals. There is evidence to suggest that the death penalty in other states costs from three to six times as much as it is to house someone in prison for the rest of their lives with no possibility of parole. MS. CARPENETI stated that the second reason that they oppose this legislation is that the death penalty will excuse case law, in addition to the courts which have required them to recognize "super due process," in death cases because they are different, it affects the case law in another way. A lot of issues in a criminal jury trial or a court trial are left to the sound discretion of the trial court judge. In cases involving stakes so high as the death penalty, it's human nature, and it's probably good that a trial court judge would bend over backwards to make sure he or she was correct in their ruling which may have an impact on the ultimate result of a case. These cases get decided and discussed on appeal in appellate decisions and then they come back and are applied to all cases. She noted that "they have to do something with them" and it makes it harder for them to get convictions in other cases because they have evidentiary rulings that were made in death penalty cases which probably may not have been the right decision, but they are applied to all cases just the same. MS. CARPENETI noted that thirdly, the criminal justice system is not perfect. We make mistakes, we have in the past, we will in the future. Innocent people have been executed and we can probably expect that they will be in the future. The problem with making a mistake in a capital case cannot be fixed. The department is also concerned about the discriminatory application of the death penalty. In Alaska's history more Native people and non-white people were executed for the very same offenses which white people committed. Other states are struggling with this discriminatory application of the death penalty. MS. CARPENETI thought that the strongest reason to oppose the death penalty, at least for her personally, it that it's wrong. The United States is a violent society. Our leaders are trying to make laws to criminalize and eliminate violence from our society. To have laws which require that a violent end for a violent act are imposed, seems like the wrong message for our leaders to be sending to the people of the state. Finally, even if they are willing to spend the money that is necessary to impose the death penalty, if they are willing to jeopardize the case law in Alaska, if they are willing to take the risk of discriminatory application of the death penalty, and they are willing to send the message that for murder they will end the life of another person, it comes down to the point of applying capital punishment when it doesn't work. There is no evidence that capital punishment deters the killing of other people. In fact, the evidence indicates that at least during the time of an execution, incidences of violence increase. There is absolutely no indication that it works. It's for these reasons that the Department of Law opposes the death penalty. MS. CARPENETI offered that they also oppose the submission of this issue to the voters as well on the basis that capital punishment is a very difficult issue, the underpinnings, the reasons for it, the reasons against it are difficult. This is where representatives should make reasoned decisions based on the evidence presented in light of this issue. The voters aren't allowed to discuss or determine other possibilities. There is the fear that a yes vote could appear as a mandate to the legislature, when the voters haven't been given a chance to vote on all the alternatives available. In Alaska, they get long sentences for people convicted for murder in the first degree. The department doesn't see a reason to impose the death penalty. Number 2422 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY said she understood all of Ms. Carpeneti's comments although she doesn't agree with all of them, but pointed out that there was only one fiscal note from the Department of Corrections. She noted this fiscal note was not very much. If they are going to educate people about the expense of this legislation, she needs to have a rational that says no, "this is going to cost $3 million or $5 million or $10 million per person that is given the sentence of death." She said she needed this information and the public needed this information. This is where she would vote no on this issue, because she didn't believe they have the money or the resources now or in the future to spend on the appeals associated with this practice. It was determined that she did not have a Department of Law fiscal note in her packet. TAPE 96-52, SIDE B Number 000 MS. CARPENETI answered a question posed by Representative Bunde which was inaudible. She believed that in light of the 99 years mandatory sentence for murder in the first degree, good time does not apply. She would double check on this issue and would let Representative Bunde know if this was incorrect. Number 052 JOE AUSTIN, retired Police Officer, Anchorage Police Department, testified against SB 52 and HB 481 by teleconference from Anchorage. He worked homicide for approximately eight years. During this period he investigated all types of homicides from contract murders, domestic violence murders, and serial murders. He felt as though he was familiar with the psychological make-up of these perpetrators. He was not testifying to debate the moral issues of this question, but to present testimony from a practical standpoint. MR. OSTEN stated that during the 80's he testified against the death penalty issue then. He brought forward the same issues then as he does now. In the early 80's he was the chief investigator on a contract murder and after successfully convicting the perpetrators he talked to some of the jurors afterwards. A substantial number of them would have voted not guilty if they had been required to decide for the death penalty if it was in place at that time. Other than the costs associated with the death penalty, it puts a higher burden of proof on the police and prosecution. MR. OSTEN specifically noted the case where Herbie Anthony killed his three year old niece, his nine year old niece and his aunt. Had Mr. Osten been the husband of this family he would probably have wanted to see Anthony murdered himself, but Mr. Anthony is currently serving three 99 year sentences plus some time for sexual assault and kidnapping. Mr. Anthony will not be eligible for parol until he serves approximately 119 years in prison. He noted that no one has to worry about Mr. Anthony. MR. OSTEN said he'd rather see the money spent on the death penalty used for research into the criminal minds of these murderers and for ways to deter them. The FBI Behavioral Science Unit does a tremendous job of profiling sexual murderers and such. Alaska could apply this same technology to finding out what makes these criminals tick. MR. OSTEN noted that he didn't want to take the chance that some of these evil persons could go free under the expectation that they should be put to death under a capital punishment provision. If someone like this does go free, there is no way to try them again. Number 166 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE observed that Mr. Osten had an interesting point of view. As Mr. Osten pointed out in the Anthony case, this person was sentenced to death. He will die in jail. Representative Bunde asked Mr. Osten if he thought that juries don't mind the death penalty as long as it's a prolonged death. MR. OSTEN answered that he didn't think this was the issue as much as it was the fact that the prosecution and the police will be held to a higher burden of proof. In the abstract we can say "yes, I'm in favor of the death penalty," but take that same person and put them on a jury where they have to determine whether or not to execute someone. He said that if anyone has seen jurors after deliberating on a serious case, it is an emotionally draining experience. He didn't want to take a chance of an individual getting off because participants in a jury are concerned about having to sentence someone to death. Number 215 MARGARET THOMAS testified on SB 52 by teleconference from Nome. What struck her initially about this issue was the irony that witnesses are presently participating in a democratic process by testifying to this capital punishment issue and those of them who oppose the death penalty are asking that this issue not be sent to the vote of the people. It's also interesting that Senator Taylor stated the reason why the proponents of the death penalty are trying to get SB 52 through is because they have been unsuccessful through legislative channels in previous years time and again when reasoned debate has taken place, it has been voted down. She said to educate the voters is completely unrealistic in light of budgetary constraints, especially since the issue is so complex. Number 320 CHRIS HAIGH testified on SB 52 by teleconference from Fairbanks. Mr. Haigh stated that he's always been proud to be an Alaskan especially because they don't have the death penalty. He noted that the justice system is not perfect and they make mistakes, but the death penalty is irrevocable. He also made the argument that the breadth of information available to the general public is limited as compared to the legislature. They won't be able to make informed decisions on this issue. CHARLES CAMPBELL, Former Director of Corrections testified on SB 52. He became director in 1979 and he's had a variety of other jobs in corrections for the past 45 years. In regards to SB 52 he stated that the first test of a piece of legislation is whether it serves a useful purpose. The cost of putting an advisory vote on the ballot is minimal, but he asked why spend five dollars on a proposal which serves no purpose. There are reliable polls which indicate that 75 to 80 percent of Alaskans approve of the death penalty when the question is put to them when offering no other options. He stated that they already knew what this vote would be. He also mentioned rival surveys which inform them that the opinions of most folks in Alaska about the death penalty are based on misinformation and therefore not only would an advisory vote serve no purpose, but it would be unfair and cloud the issue. In the long run it would most certainly not be in the best interest of the state. MR. CAMPBELL stated that the question which SB 52 proposes to put to the voters is the kind of question the legislature should address in a careful, unprejudiced way. This could be accomplished through the legislative research staffs and unhurried hearings of testimony from citizens, but also people of expertise who can offer guidance as to what reinstitution would mean for Alaska. What will it costs? How will the costs of the death penalty with prosecution and execution compare with a sentence of life in prison? Will they ever be able to defeat the requirements of Greg v. Georgia which provides for the super due process which runs up the costs of prosecution? Do Alaska laws and sentencing practices result in first degree murderers being released in just a few years or do they serve much longer? Would the death penalty result in fewer first degree murders? This is a crucial question. Do the prosecutors in Alaska favor their idea of the death penalty being back on the books? What do the top law enforcement people feel about the death penalty? How is law enforcement impacted? MR. CAMPBELL stated that they knew how the Department of Law and Corrections felt about this issue, but wondered how the past administration department heads felt about this issue. He felt it would be a good thing to research this. What about other states which use the death penalty? Florida and Texas have executed a lot of people. Are they happy with the results? Have the murder rates in those states gone down? What has the financial impact been? Do they see any hope in the cost going down or by appeals being limited? Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976. What has happened to the murder rate there? Alaska abolished the death penalty in 1957. Has Alaska seen a bad result from this? MR. CAMPBELL asked about the matter of racial bias and the incredible unfairness in representation. He asked about innocent people being executed. What is really most fair and helpful in the long term of families of murder victims? Mr. Campbell stated that he didn't understand the rational of putting a ballot question to the voters of Alaska when first of all they know what the results will be and secondly, the average voter doesn't have crucial information on the information which might well affect their answer to the questions. He asked again what the purpose of this bill served. MR. CAMPBELL recommended that SB 52 and HB 481 be laid aside for the time being at least. He guessed that for an expenditure that would not be greater than the cost of an advisory vote on the ballot this legislature could put together a comprehensive package of objective, factual information about the death penalty which would be extremely useful in helping the members of the body make wise decisions about it. Information in this form could be made available to the public as well, through the news media and other means. After enough time for the information to be disseminated and for the information to sink in, an advisory vote on the ballot with the question crafted somewhat more helpfully would be fine with him. MR. CAMPBELL said he understood the emotional dimensions of this issue because of the love people have for their children, because of the justified, moral outrage that people feel. Every year that passes brings them more evidence as to how poorly the death penalty serves the interests of the states where it is used or where there are efforts to use it. Once the people of this state fully understand all of the facts and implications of this matter, they will not support the death penalty. Number 694 AVERIL LERMAN testified on SB 52 by teleconference from Anchorage. She stated that she had submitted written testimony on the advisory vote. She hoped they could look at it briefly. She stated that she is a mother of two children, a career person and somewhat of an historian. For the past two years she has been researching the history of the territorial death penalty in Alaska from 1900 to 1957. She did this largely in response to the continued efforts to re-institute the death penalty in Alaska. As Mr. Campbell noted, the necessity of making an informed decision about this critical subject is very important. She thought that to research why Alaska got rid of the death penalty in the first place would be a place to start in light of the possible reinstatement of it. MS. LERMAN stated that her research was sponsored and funded in part by the Alaska Humanities Forum, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Alaska Native Justice Center. She spent a lot of time in libraries researching archived documents and she also interviewed more than 50 people who participated in the capital punishment system which was in place in Alaska, including former U.S. attorneys, the men who served as executioners in the old federal jail in Juneau, men who served as guards, children of some of the last men executed, etc. MS. LERMAN said that until recently she felt as though the death penalty was a good idea. Like most people she has never been exposed to a death penalty and she had no basis for an informed opinion about it. She said there was something about it which seemed sort of fair, "an eye for an eye." It was only after exposure to the information on race, poverty, powerlessness and the potential for official corruption that her conception of the profound wrongness of this concept in terms of government and public policy became fixed. MS. LERMAN gave examples of the limited use of the death penalty when it was in place in Alaska, although homicide continued to be widespread. She implored the committee to take seriously their responsibility to the public. Number 895 SYBIL SKELTON testified on SB 52 by teleconference from Fairbanks. When she found out that other states with the death penalty had the same rate of violence as other states, she changed her mind because she realized that capital punishment was not a deterrent. Ms. Skelton referred to a study she had recently read about violence and young people. The study pointed out that young people have no money, they're destitute and they see murder all the time. They see things in society which they want to get. They are left out. Number 970 JIM SYKES, testified on SB 52. He stated that legislation should have a purpose. What problem does this legislation address? He felt as though it can be documented, scientifically, factual and otherwise that other states who have the death penalty have higher rates of murder than states who do not. It's either inconclusive or it's better not to have a death penalty if looking at the statistics. People have said that if someone makes a mistake with handing down the death penalty, it's not reversible. This is another good reason to not re-institute the death penalty. MR. SYKES pointed out that there were a few issues raised which he wished to rebut. As to the question of putting this advisory to the people, to let them decide. He would gladly hope that the legislature as a body would be able to develop a process to jerk a bill out of committee that needs to be dealt with by an anonymous vote on the floor, to keep a committee chair from sitting on a piece of legislation which needs to be dealt with. This isn't the case here. These bills are widely heard in many committees and the opposition to them is overwhelming. To say that the process is not working and as Senator Taylor suggested, they can't pass this issue in the legislature because they don't have the votes. He felt the democratic process is working. This is why he recommended that putting this issue to a vote without education is not a wise idea. The argument that they're denying the public their democratic right to vote is not there. MR. SYKES also addressed the issue of complexity. He noted that during the last election the Alaskans Against the Death Penalty shared a booth with their organization at the fair. He asked some people who came by, let's think about this for a minute. You want to deny people accused their appeals, if they're accused of murder, you want them murdered very quickly. What if each of you had a close one who was accused of murder. You don't know whether they did it or not, but someone close to you who you care dearly about, a wife, a brother. Wouldn't you want the maximum amount of appeals to be exhausted before a decision was made. He felt that when people are actually faced with having to make these personal decisions, it is a lot different than having to make an abstract decision of "oh yeah, they committed murder. Toast them." MR. SYKES stated that the issue of minorities in jail in this state and others presently way outnumber their participation in the general population. "What is there to believe that people won't be unfairly convicted due to racial bias, or as our own history exemplifies people who are white are generally not going to be convicted of murder," or at least executed for it. This is our history. It's not a simplistic question. It can't honestly be said that the facts are out there to be decided upon. The facts should be laid on the table. "Let's talk about the FBI statistics. Let's talk about the expense. Let's talk about the fact that mistakes have been made and will continue to be made in our kind of society." Capital punishment cannot be reversed once instituted. MR. SYKES said that what sealed it for him was the question that isn't life in prison the same as the death penalty. No, it is not. Personally he felt that if someone has murdered and they're not put to death, they have to face the relatives of the victim and in some cases murderers do feel remorse. These people can be quite productive in convincing others not to murder. There are productive things that even a murderer can do in prison. Number 1253 BRANT MCGEE, Head, Office of Public Advocacy testified by teleconference from Anchorage on SB 52 and HB 481. He was asked to estimate the cost of this program to this agency. By the end of four years the Office of Public Advocacy, Department of Law, and the Public Defender Agency alone will spend $18 million in public dollars to process capital punishment cases. These cases will continue to escalate dramatically in future years as these cases accumulate. By the end of ten years the state of Alaska will have spend more than $50 million to process death penalty cases just among these three agencies. This does not include the cost of the court system which will slow down other important criminal and civil cases in order to take care of this load. Nor does it count the cost to corrections, or the Alaska State Troopers who will have dozens of officers involved in long term cases. MR. MCGEE noted that from the experience of other states the cost of enacting the death penalty are simply enormous. In 1992 a Texas study revealed that their death penalty cases cost an average of $2.3 million, Florida in 1988 was $3.2 million dollars per case. In 1982, New York did a projected cost of $1.8 million for the first trial, in the first level of appeals. In a more detailed Los Angeles County capital punishment examination is that it cost $1.9 million for each case processed for the trial alone. MR. MCGEE poised the question, why does this cost this much? They discovered that there were four times as many pre-trial motions in capital cases. Jury selection took six times as long and the court days devoted to capital cases were six and a half times what another first degree, non-capital cases involved. In other words, the anticipated costs for a capital punishment case is between three to five times what it costs to incarcerate an individual for the rest of their natural lives. MR. MCGEE offered that the United States is now averaging nine years and eight months from the time a person is convicted of a capital crime to a time of their execution. This time could be significantly shortened if appeals were knocked off. Number 1470 SUZIE GREGG FOWLER testified on SB 52. She stated that she had served on a murder one jury about 14 years ago. It was a painful, gut-wrenching experience and she would never want to repeat it, but she assumed that if she came to find the accused guilty she would know that he wasn't like her. Ms. Fowler noted that people are able to say they would put people to death because they believe they are not made of the same fabric. In the trial she participated in she was with this suspect day after day, she watched his mother, his friends and she knew at the same time that she voted to convict. She stated that he was human, not a monster and the experience was humbling and scary to see that they were more alike than they were different, she and this suspect. MS. FOWLER stated, "did I want him off the streets? You bet. Could I have said, 'kill him.' No. I couldn't." Last week her family was honored to host a representative from Amnesty International, Daniel Georges-Abeyie. Mr. Georges-Abeyie speaks for the death penalty abolition from his background as a professor and consultant in the criminal justice field. He speaks too as someone who has lost three brothers to murder. She listened to him and Marietta Yegar who lost a daughter to murder, she is humbled in another way by the humanity she shares with them. "When I hear Daniel speak about justice with mercy and Marietta speak about forgiveness and reconciliation, a part of the fabric of humanity that has been breached and ripped by all the hatred and terrorism and murder in the world is mended, is made richer and stronger." She asked the committee not to vote for legislation which moves the state towards sanctioned violence. Number 1645 MARY GEDDES testified by teleconference from Anchorage on HB 481 and SB 52. She asked the committee to not support either of these two bills. Ms. Geddes urged the committee to investigate whether or not the question as proposed in the SB 52 was the type likely to promote reasoned, intelligent voting among the people of Alaska. As to the cost of enactment at $2 to $8 million dollars, this referendum is completely silent. She also questioned the fact that other options are silent on this referendum as well. Does it note how effective capital punishment is? She asked them most particularly as to whether or not this question will promote reasoned intelligent voting among the population and that it was likely to punish in disproportionate numbers Alaskan Natives. Number 1830 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE noted that Ms. Geddes was concerned about Alaska Natives who don't speak English as a first language, he asked if she would allow these same Natives to vote on a subsistence resolution or "is it just on capital punishment that you don't trust their judgment?" MS. GEDDES noted that she was present to talk to the capital punishment legislation. Under the various federal and state voting rights acts there has to be special protections undertaken where there are populations most likely to be affected by bills, hence the question about whether or not they've taken into account the non-English speaking population at the polls. She suggested that this type of question doesn't promote any type of intelligent discussions in their communities. She asked the legislature to do so and "let's ask you to do the job that we elected you to do which is to consider whether or not that this is an appropriate and effective way of dealing with this matter." Number 1955 CHARLES ROHRBACHER testified on SB 52 as a member of Amnesty International. He pointed out that Amnesty International won the Nobel Peace prize in 1977 and their mandate is based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are fundamental human rights that limit what a state can do to any individual. The organization looks at violations of human rights, including torture, murder that include not one or two victims, but tens, hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands of people. They support the current human rights trials going on at the Haigh, and vigorous prosection of people who kill in the name of state either legally or extra-judicially. They are opposed among other things to the imposition of the death penalty in all cases and under all circumstances, for example, major human rights violators. Even though they have worked for the prosecution of these human rights violators, Amnesty goes to the U.N. and urges that the people being tried for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia for example, be given the maximum sentence, but not be put to death. MR. ROHRBACHER stated that Amnesty opposes any step towards the advance of the death penalty, including this referendum. They don't see it as an issue of democratic majorities who are informed or not. The death penalty is morally wrong. It is in violation of the fundamental right that every human being has to their life and the security of their life. MR. ROHRBACHER said that for himself, personally, the strongest argument against the death penalty is the possibility of executing innocent people. He shared the story of a case he worked on in San Francisco of an individual who was acquitted after being sentenced to death. He then touched lightly on the history of the death penalty. Thomas Jefferson argued that he would never support the death penalty until it was possible to demonstrate the infallibility of human judgment. The possibility of convicting an innocent individual is too high a price to pay for the death penalty. Number 2275 MICHAEL LEMAY testified by teleconference from Anchorage on SB 52 and HB 481. He stated he was a New Hampshireman by birth and proud to be an Alaskan by choice. Mr. Lemay said he was opposed to the advisory ballot because it asks the wrong question. An affirmative vote from the Judicial Committee could result in fiscal insanity. He referred to Mr. McGee's testimony. Attorney General, Bruce Botelho estimates the cost of capital punishment for an individual could cost as much as $5 million dollars. This far exceeds the cost of permanent incarceration. He also noted Alaska's 99 year sentencing for some categories of murder. MR. LEMAY noted that the Republican lead legislature's main goal is to reduce the budget by $250 million dollars in cuts within the next five years. In addition, they propose to protect the permanent fund and dividend programs and to impose no income tax. These are admirable goals. When facing these financial choices, Alaska cannot afford a death penalty statute. Mr. Lemay proposed that if the legislature insists on asking this advisory question, that they add the following twelve words to the end of a particular section, "with all intended costs to be paid for out of legislator's salaries." TAPE 96-53, SIDE A Number 000 GEORGE PARTLOW testified on SB 52 and HB 481. Mr. Partlow stated that he was proud to be an Alaskan and noted that the constitution of the United States constitution was hanging on the Judiciary Committee room walls. It's representative the there is a democratic republic in this country, in which decisions are not ordinarily presented to an individual voter, but representatives are elected to make decisions for the populace. He expects that these elected individuals will make informed decisions and not expect the average citizen to do a great deal of homework when they don't have a staff available to research an issue. MR. PARTLOW alluded to a comment made by Representative Bunde that the voters could make a decision on this issue much the same way a jury does. Mr. Partlow argued that his service on a jury once was not part-time, he was asked to sit in the court room and listen to a great deal of evidence, not all of it earthshaking, much of it boring, but he took the whole thing quite seriously. He found it difficult to compare this experience with the attitude of an average newspaper reader in Anchorage voting on this proposition. MR. PARTLOW noted that he teaches a kindergarten church class. He added that these children see a lot of violence on television. He thought this issue added to the violence in society and did not subtract from it. He also referred to Senator Taylor's comments about feeling good about seeing candle light vigils outside prisons for death row inmates, but didn't mention at the same time the wild beer blasts of people who are present to celebrate the "toasting" of the victims. Number 353 SUSAN ORLANSKY testified by teleconference from Anchorage on SB 52 and HB 481. She spoke against both bills. She made an argument more directly towards SB 52. She asked herself how she would vote on this referendum. She made the argument that this is not how important policy should be set and noted that was what the representatives are elected for. Representatives have staff, they take testimony and have time to collect data. The average voter does not have this advantage. Most of them vote emotionally. She also mentioned the 99 year sentences which already exist in Alaska. She also mentioned that the death penalty is racially discriminatory, that it does not deter and that it cannot be infallibly administered because it's administered by people. People are not infallible. The death penalty is fundamentally wrong. Number 599 AMY PAIGE testified on SB 52 and HB 481. She opposed both the bills. Ms. Paige felt it was unfair to offer the voters a seemingly simple solution to what is truly a complex social issue. The legislature is not asking the voters for simple solutions to the complex budgetary and other social policy issues, because they know considerable debate by the people who work to become informed about these matters would be more likely to arrive at decisions which reflect reasoned and sound understanding based on facts. She asked the representatives to go back to their constituents and engage in a dialogue which opens people to the full meaning of the judicial and correctional system and how they can best deal with these types of crimes. She also noted the protection of human and civil rights of individuals. A majority vote cannot be allowed to deprive people of the full protection of these rights as provided in the constitution. Number 700 ANNE WILKAS, Assistant Public Defender, testified by teleconference from Anchorage on SB 52 and HB 481. She said she currently defends people who have been charged with murder in the first degree. She said she speaks from both her professional position and as a public defender, as well as a citizen of community. She coaches Junior Nordic League in Anchorage. One of her students asked her what the worst thing that you ever represented somebody doing. Ms. Wilkas responded, "killing somebody." This student wondered why somebody would have to serve 99 years for this type of crime. Ms. Wilkas said she is in the same position. She has posed the question of why to both sponsors of this legislation. She said she still hasn't heard a sound reason from Senator Taylor as to why they want to send the issue of death penalty to the people. Ms. Wilkas also mentioned the heavy work load this would create on the existing system. She also made the argument that putting someone to death is a immoral and said they shouldn't sanction this concept. Number 902 ROBERT WOLFE testified on SB 52 and HB 481. He stated that he was the father of four children and a Sunday school teacher of fifth graders. Yesterday, they raised these two bills in this class then. He wished the committee members could have been in this class. These are morally and complicated issues. Mr. Wolf said he was discouraged at first to see the initial reactions of his students, which was rather flip. Children this age have a macabre, grotesque fascination with death, but then they talked about the issue. They talked about what god would want, about sin, accountability for sin, how we earn what we reap; how brokenness is healed and redemption, the potential for forgiveness and what can be done to try to bring this about. They talked about doing unto others. He felt the students were more informed after the talk and he urged them to discuss this issue with their parents. Number 1073 LYNN SIMLER, Executive Director, ACLU, testified by teleconference from Anchorage on SB 52. She said that she and the ACLU oppose the advisory ballot. She questioned the public voting without being completely informed, without the benefit of full disclosure, failure to include provisions for increased funding with an already overtaxed public defenders, the lack of the super due process information and also to consider that innocent convictions come not only because of racial bias, but because of the process of plea bargaining. Ms. Stimler noted that she was a first generation American. Her parents came to this country from Nazi Germany. Their families were killed in the Nazi death camps. If this type of vote had been proposed in Germany in 1939 it would have been supported by the majority, not just for Jews, but for many other people who were killed there. MS. STIMLER reminded the jury what Justice Marshall said in conjunction with the 1972 case, Furman v. Georgia. "Capital punishment is imposed discriminatorily against certain identifiable classes of people. There is evidence that innocent people have been executed before their innocence can be proved. The death penalty reeks havoc with our entire criminal justice system." Number 1221 DOUG MERTZ testified on SB 52. He gathered that the idea of submitting reinstitution of the death penalty to the public for an advisory vote is to derive a body of information which will tell the legislature what the public actually thinks about this issue. To do this, it has to be done right. It has to be done in such a way that the information that results is not saleable as somehow being inaccurate or skewed because of the way it was submitted. Not only do the people need to be told what the proposal is, but also what the present law is, what the actual sentences are under the present law, and what the financial implications of what both the present law and the proposal are. If this is not done, the results will be open to attack and will be attacked as being skewed. The truth is that they will end up with a result which is not truly useful. Number 1330 CAROL GRAY testified by teleconference from Anchorage on SB 52 and HB 481. She spoke against both bills. She noted the cost constraints related to this concept as well as, the opinions by former Justices Blackman and Powell who concluded that after many years capital punishment was imposed in a discriminatory and arbitrary manner. It is impossible to implement fairly. Capital punishment has no deterrent effect. In states that have the death penalty, the murder rate is no lower than states without it. In states that have abolished the death penalty there has been no rise in the murder rate. She noted one study that linked a rise in murder rates after an execution takes place. She thought it was interesting that the sponsor of HB 481 said this legislation was proposed as a deterrent. Number 1420 BARBARA BRINK, Deputy Director, Alaska Public Defender Agency testified by teleconference from Anchorage on SB 52 and HB 481. The Public Defender's office opposes both of these bills, in particular their concerned about the advisory ballot which does not provide Alaskans with the information they need about the death penalty to make a reasoned decision. Representative Bunde likened this process to a jury reaching a decision on an issue, except that they wouldn't be making a decision based on all the evidence. She also noted the cost issue and gave some additional figures. She also noted the added time constraints added to death penalty trials. Ms. Brink mentioned the chance of condemning an innocent person and the super due process standard. Number 1612 JERRY SHRINER, Special Assistant, Department of Corrections testified on SB 52 and HB 481. The department is opposed to both these bills. The department is fundamentally opposed for matters of policy and philosophy. They simply do not believe that executing people for whatever the crime is defensible morally and philosophically. MR. SHRINER wanted to emphasis two points. The first, is that there is no evidence whatsoever that he is aware of that capital punishment or the threat of it deters people from crime. He also noted all other forms of punishments don't work very well as a deterrent either. The other point he wanted to make is that he is constantly amazed at the level of misinformation and ignorance with regard to the types of sentences which currently exist. There have been focus groups run in this state in connection with the intermediate sanctions task force which operated a few years ago. They found quite clearly that when a group of people drawn from the community were given the sentences and the options for sentencing, that people tended to chose other alternatives rather than long prison terms. If they were given a range of options of other things which might be done, these people all came up with alternative sanctions. All he was saying by this, was that he didn't believe people understood what is currently being done with offenders, for example, 99 year sentences without parole for serious crimes. Number 1760 CHAIRMAN PORTER stated that what he was about to say was not an indication of his preference on these two bills, but he felt as though there was one thing that worked, absolute sanctions, coupled with the perception of apprehension. He felt as though this was a deterrent. He closed the public hearing and stated that they would take these bills up first thing on Wednesday.