With executions on hold, California death row inmates focus on passing time

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. - With executions on hold in California and a death penalty appeals process that can take years, many inmates on the nation's largest death row say they spend little time worrying about the lethal injection that may one day kill them.

See Full Article

"It's almost like it's not even a real punishment for a lot of people," said Charles Crawford at San Quentin State Prison, where the vast majority of the state's nearly 750 condemned inmates are held.

Crawford, who has been at San Quentin since 2002 for killing two people, spoke during a rare tour by prison officials of death row and the death chamber, with its sea green gurney where executions by lethal injection would take place if they resumed.

The tour on Tuesday came as the state considers a one-drug execution protocol to replace a three-drug method that a federal judge invalidated in 2006 as a potentially cruel and unusual punishment.

Voters in 2016 may also get a chance to weigh in on competing death penalty measures - one would scrap capital punishment, and the other would speed up executions by providing inmates with more appellate lawyers and faster appeals.

"By the time they get to me, I'm going to be dead anyway," said Charles Case, 75, who killed two people at a bar during a robbery.

Case was alone in a cell behind a mesh door in the musty, five-tier East Block, where most death row inmates are housed. Many of the cells were dark, their occupants quietly lying on their beds. A sign outside Case's cell indicated his "kosher" meal preference.

Since 1978, California has executed 13 people. More than 90 other inmates have died of natural causes or suicide, according to prison officials. The 10th anniversary of the state's last execution is Jan. 17.

Case described San Quentin as the "worst place he's ever been," and said after 19 years there, he was ready to die.

"Don't abolish the death penalty, fix it," he said, sitting on an overturned white bucket while typing a letter to his attorney.

A few cells down, Richard Hirschfield, said he, too, would likely die before his execution.

Hirschfield was convicted in 2012 of kidnapping and murdering 18-year-old college sweethearts and sexually assaulting the woman. He is in his late 60s and said he is diabetic.

East Block inmates receive a minimum of 10 hours of recreation time a week in a yard that includes heavy bags and basketball courts, San Quentin spokesman Lt. Sam Robinson said. They can also communicate with neighbouring inmates.

Hirschfield said he elects to spend his days in his cell and keep to himself. He grabbed his cell bars and pulled himself up from his bed, demonstrating one of the exercises he said he does to try to stay fit.

"It's enough for an old man," he said.

Inmates described their lives as monotonous, spent reading or watching the news or other programs on small televisions that prison officials say must be purchased. Most said they were innocent and declined to talk about their convictions.

Raul Sarinana, 48, makes pencil drawings and proudly displayed a card with a puppy holding a rose in its mouth inside a giant heart. The card said, "Thinking of You."

Sarinana and his wife were convicted in 2009 of torturing and murdering their 11-year-old nephew.

He said he made the card for another inmate who wanted to send it to family. He exchanges his drawings for pencils and other supplies. "I do my drawings to get through my day," he said. "I don't think about tomorrow."

The best behaved inmates at San Quentin are in the North Segregation unit, where they get to spend more time out of their cells than other condemned inmates, Robinson said.

Scott Peterson, among San Quentin's most famous inmates, was inside a caged outdoor basketball court at the unit. He turned his back to reporters and declined to be interviewed, saying he wasn't interested, "thank you."

Peterson was convicted of killing his wife Laci, who was 8 months pregnant with their son, and dumping her body in San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve 2002. He has maintained his innocence.

Steve Livaditis, 51, another condemned inmate, shot a basketball near Peterson. He pleaded guilty to three counts of murder in a 1986 robbery at a Beverly Hills jewelry shop and said he accepts his fate.

"Whatever the outcome is, I'm going to assume it's God's will," he said. He later added, "I wish I had not done what I did, but there's no way to go back now."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Bidder urges overhaul of design tender in $60B navy frigate program

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada's plan to buy an off-the-shelf design for the navy's new frigates faces a "very high risk of failure" unless the Liberal government rewrites its proposed requirements, one of the bidders has told the shipyard running the competition. Source
  • Intel report: Kremlin sees US urging regime change in Russia

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Kremlin leaders are convinced America is intent on regime change in Russia, a fear that is feeding rising tension and military competition between the former Cold War foes, the Pentagon's intelligence arm has assessed. Source
  • Man pleads guilty in mannequin attack to avoid murder charges

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS - A man facing eight to 20 years in a Nevada state prison after pleading guilty to trying to kill a mannequin that police posed as a sleeping homeless person will avoid charges in three similar downtown Las Vegas attacks. Source
  • Trump attacks Washington Post, Amazon over 'internet taxes'

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump attacked The Washington Post and Amazon on Twitter Wednesday, arguing that the online retailer was not paying "internet taxes." Trump stated on Twitter Wednesday: "The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!" Source
  • Record-breaking sniper shot saved Iraqi lives, special forces officer says

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA - The deputy commander of Canadian special forces says the sniper who shattered the record for the longest confirmed kill also saved lives. Brig.-Gen. Peter Dawe tells The Canadian Press that Islamic State fighters were gathering for an attack on an unsuspecting Iraqi military unit when the Canadian took the 3.5-kilometre shot. Source
  • 'She has a nice smile': Trump compliments Irish journalist

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump interrupted a telephone conversation with Ireland’s prime minister to compliment an Irish journalist on her “nice smile.” Caitriona Perry is a Washington correspondent and U.S. bureau chief for RTE News-Ireland. She was in the Oval Office with other journalists to document the Tuesday call. Source
  • Appalachian wrestling's 'Progressive Liberal' might be the most hated man in sports entertainment

    World News Toronto Sun
    It was a strange sight, even for the "sport" of professional wrestling. A wrestler holding a microphone faced an Appalachian crowd before a match and began unleashing a torrent of insults, the nature of which seemed out of place at a pro wrestling tournament. Source
  • Supervisors suspended amid NYC subway derailment probe

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A subway train derailment that injured nearly three dozen people and sparked major delays is being blamed on human error, not a track defect, and two supervisors have been suspended while the matter is investigated. Source
  • Solar eclipse preparation keeping rural Kentucky town busy

    World News Toronto Sun
    HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. — Cross over the old Louisville & Nashville Railroad in this town remembered for its Civil War encampment and you’ll see the first signs — there’s fresh anticipation in the rural areas that will be prime viewing locations for the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse to sweep the United States in 99 years. Source
  • Man jailed after drywall powder mistaken for blow

    World News Toronto Sun
    What does drywall residue and blow have in common? Cops in Oviedo, Fla., think it's one in the same. It's why a handyman in the Sunshine State recently spent several months behind bars. Drug charges against Karlos Cashe were dropped this week after laboratory tests on substances found in the man's vehicle showed there were no drugs at the time of his arrest. Source