The story of the kidnap and murder of little Samantha Runnion is so awful, it makes you want to turn the TV off. It's repulsive and gross and infuriating.

When they catch the guy who did this, he will be tried and convicted and sentenced to death.

California does have the death penalty... but there's a catch. The killer will go to the needle about the time Samantha Runnion would have been old enough to have a little Samantha Runnion of her own. Yes... about the time she would have been 30, had she lived.

The last guy executed in California was on death row for 24 years. When executions in the state began again in 1992, there were 277 people on death row. Now there are 616, with the average wait time — for appeals, of course — being about 15 years.

Remember Polly Klass? Killed by Richard Alan Davis? He's still got another decade to go before he will have to look at the needle. Polly Klass by then would have already had kids of her own.

And here's the killer... so to speak... some people firmly in the camp of the death penalty are now being forced into second thoughts because of money. At a cost of $1 million an appeal, Californians now face a half-billion-dollar liability in the form of those 616 people on death row.

Why is this? Well, part of the problem is the most overturned court of appeals in the country — the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the very same one that gave us the unconstitutional Pledge of Allegiance.

So what happens is the California Supreme Court, after years of appeals, okays a death sentence. The case then goes to the Feds, the Ninth Circuit. They set it aside, so the prosecutor takes the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which eventually reinstates it.

That's why it takes two decades to put to death someone who snatches Samantha Runnion off the streets, rapes her, strangles her, and dumps her on a road in a pose designed to taunt the cops.

And this is why when the next big fight over federal judges comes up... think of California's slow motion death penalty and innocent victims like Samantha Runnion.

That's My Word.

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