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Los Angeles County has become America's new capital punishment capital. With 13 death sentences in 2009, LA County alone sent more people to death than the entire state of Texas -- or any other state for that matter.

Those death sentences come at an enormous cost. The ACLU estimates that each trial seeking death in California costs $1.1 million more than a trial seeking life without the possibility of parole, paid for entirely by the county. LA has spent $68.2 million on death sentences since 2000, and $14.3 million last year alone. That could have also funded 185 homicide investigators or 223 high school teachers.

But most counties in California and across the nation no longer use the death penalty. In fact, only 10 percent of American counties have issued a single death sentence in the last six years.

it's time for Los Angeles to join the rest of the state and nation by letting the death penalty go the way of the Governator. There's no reason for LA County to pump millions into this failed government bureaucracy when most of the state and 90 percent of American counties get along just fine without it. Take action now and tell DA Cooley to put an end to death sentencing in Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: Marshall Astor

Letter to
LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley
I'm writing to ask you to stop seeking death sentences in Los Angeles County. Instead, I hope you will invest the county's resources on solving homicides, preventing violence, and creating and expanding effective public safety programs.

Los Angeles has become a rogue county when it comes to death sentencing. Despite a decline in death sentences around the country, California's death row population has now reached 700, 30 percent of whom were prosecuted by your office. In 2009, your office sent 13 people to death row. This number not only topped every other county in the state, but every county in the nation. In fact, our county alone sent more people to death row that year than any state in the union, including Texas. Last year this trend continued with 8 death sentences from LA County -- the same number as the entire state of Texas.

The death penalty is costly, both to the state and the county. In the last 10 years, death penalty prosecutions have cost more than Los Angeles County $75 million, and post-conviction costs for housing and appeals for death row inmates from the county have reached $41.1 million per year. The money spent on the death penalty has not made Los Angeles County safer, has not lowered the rate of unsolved murders, and has not improved the quality of lives of Angelinos. Instead of spending $14.3 million on 13 death penalty prosecutions in 2009, Los Angeles County could have hired 223 experienced high school teachers or 185 homicide investigators, for example.

As district attorney, you have the power to move Los Angeles County in a new direction. The majority of California's counties have effectively replaced the death penalty with permanent imprisonment, enjoying increased funding for other necessary services without seeing an increase in violent crime. You have the opportunity to significantly improve the budget conditions of the county while simultaneously eliminating the risk of executing an innocent person simply by discontinuing death penalty prosecutions in your office.

These facts are outlined in a recent report by the ACLU of Northern California, "Death in Decline '09." You can view this report here: www.aclunc.org/deathpenalty.

Sincerely,