California's 'Broken' Death Penalty System


California’s death penalty system needs to change.

The death penalty is not an easy topic to discuss. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we lived in a perfect world where we did not have to worry about protecting our family and loved ones from evil? However, we do!

My mother, sister and two nephews were murdered in 1984 in a home invasion murder for hire. An 18-year-old rolling 60's Crips gang member, Tiqueon Cox, along with two accomplices entered my mother Ebora's home, and shot her in the head while she was drinking her morning cup of coffee.

He then executed my 24-year-old sister, Dietra, while she was still sleeping in her bed and then, in an effort not to leave any witnesses, murdered my two nephews, aged 8 and 12, while they slept. The trigger man was hired to carry out an execution.

The irony is that these killers went to the wrong address –they made a mistake – couldn't read the correct address. They had been paid by a bar owner to kill a young lady who lived down the street. She had been tragically injured in his night-club and instead of paying out a lawsuit, he wanted to eliminate one.

The man who committed that murder has been on death row for over 27 years. He will celebrate another birthday on December 1. He has exhausted all of his appeals on both the state and federal levels.

The only barrier to justice at this point is California's failure to hold this killer accountable.

The State of California promised the residents and the victims that this man's crimes met the criteria necessary to impose death. The jury found him guilty of his crime and backed the recommendation for execution. The judge sentenced this killer to die in California's death chamber and yet, he still waits to receive an execution date.

While on death row, this killer has continued to operate as a shot caller being classified the most dangerous man on death row. In 2001, Tiqueon Cox attempted a violent takeover of the Super Max Adjustment Center at San Quentin. His goal was not to escape but to “kill as many guards as possible.”

He is also responsible for repeated assaults on fellow inmates and correctional officers.

As with many on death row, Cox, is the perfect example of the need to have a death penalty.

What greater sentence could there be for a guy who walks into a grandmother's house and executes her and her family, by mistake, for a mere $3,500? His disregard for human life and values both before and during prison is justification for setting an execution date. It is sad that the victims must continue to fight for their right to see justice.

Justice is not easy – it is a difficult yet necessary part of our society. And Justice isn't gentle. But Justice denied – isn't Justice.

Capital punishment was enacted and reinstated to remind criminals that if you act in a violent way and show no remorse – don't expect society to coddle you. The crimes committed by the people who murdered my family are not in question; their appeals are not in question – only the protocol by which we execute has come under question.

However, California’s death penalty has become ineffective because of waste, delays and inefficiencies.

A coalition of district attorneys, law enforcement and victim’s rights advocates like me are proposing a statewide ballot initiative to change the death penalty system in California.

The California Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016 would fix the broken death penalty system. The initiative would change the lengthy appeals process by expanding the pool of appellate attorneys and appointing lawyers to the cases at time of sentencing, reform death row housing and restitution and reform the appointment of appellate counsel and agency oversight.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney, Mike Ramos, may have said it best:

“California's 730-plus death row inmates have murdered more than 1,000 people, including 229 children and 43 police officers. I stand with the victims and their families to unite for changes in California's death penalty system.”

Kermit Alexander, who was a defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers from 1963 to 1969, is a death penalty reform advocate. An earlier version of this essay was previously published on the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys website.

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