'Life in Prison a Viable Option'

A statement from the Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty regarding capital punishment and the Shawna Forde trial:

Life in prison a viable option to serve justice

Feb. 16, 2011 — Jurors in the Shawna Forde trial are weighing whether Forde should be sentenced to death for felony murder in the 2009 slayings of Brisenia Flores, 9, and her father, Raul Flores. They have already delivered eight guilty verdicts, holding Forde criminally responsible for these deaths.

The Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty urges the jurors and all Arizonans to consider the alternative to execution — life in prison without parole. It is less costly; it protects the public; and it will spare the Flores family from years — if not decades — without real closure, punctuated by protracted court proceedings that are needed to ensure that the ultimate penalty is administered in keeping with current law.

“The issue of capital punishment is greater that any one court case,” said CAADP President Bob Schwartz. “Illinois legislators recently voted to abolish capital punishment and earlier this week, Montana senators voted to end executions there. Those two states are poised to join the 15 other states and 94 nations where state-ordered executions are not allowed.

“Despite what you might hear, our studies show that a significant percentage of Arizonans oppose the death penalty,” Schwartz said. “If the Forde jury doesn’t condemn her to death, Pima County Superior Court Judge John S. Leonardo has the option of choosing between life in prison with parole possible after 25 years and life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“In Arizona, no inmate in recent years who has been sentenced to life with parole possible after 25 years has ever been released,” Schwartz said. “Even when the clemency board has approved release, governors have refused to release the inmate.

“In effect, this means that Forde and others convicted of first-degree murder in Arizona with life sentences will die in prison,” Schwartz said. “It costs more than $2 million more per inmate on death row than to house those sentenced to life in prison.

“Many Arizonans, including CAADP members, would rather that prosecutors seek life without the possibility of parole and use the money that would be spent on executions on pursuits that would add to the public safety, such as funding budget-challenged cold-case murder units,” Schwartz said.

“The civilized world has ended capital punishment,” Schwartz said. “It’s time Arizona did the same.”