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Death Penalty Sentences on Decline in U.S., But on Rise in L.A.

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Photo by Tim Pearce, Los Gatos via Flickr

Photo by Tim Pearce, Los Gatos via Flickr
On the same day that serial killer Rodney Alcala was handed a death sentence for the murder of a pre-teen girl and four women in Orange County in the 1970's, the ACLU released a report on death penalty sentences in the United States, noting that while nationwide such sentences are on decline, in California they are, in fact, on the rise.The rise in California as a whole can actually be attributed to just three counties, per the report. "Prosecutorial practices in just three 'killer counties,' Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside - accounted for 83% of death sentences in 2009, while those counties represented only 41% of the state's population," remarks the ACLU in a press release.

Of the three, "Los Angeles County sent more people to death row in 2009 than in any other year this decade—and more than the entire state of Texas for the same period."

Experts cite the high cost of the death penalty and increasing worries regarding wrongful imprisonment for the decline of such sentences on the national level. The concerns of the ACLU are focused on the state's fiscal crisis; the report claims "California will be forced to spend $1 billion on the death penalty in the next five years unless the state replaces the death penalty with permanent imprisonment," and the ACLU believes the funds saved could be applied to " schools in desperate need of funds."

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Also a troubling statistic for the civil rights' organization is the fact that the number of Latinos sentenced to death is on the rise, a trend the ACLU says for which "the state does not collect the data needed to answer" why this is happening.