Proposition 34: Repealing the death penalty

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 - 1:16 pm

The initiative to repeal California's death penalty comes as opponents have experienced success nationally in ending capital punishment.

Last spring, Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to eliminate the death penalty, joining Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York.

A total of 17 states do not have the death penalty.

Last year, a bill sponsored Sen. Loni Hancock, a Berkeley Democrat, would have placed the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, but it never went anywhere in the Legislature and she withdrew it in August 2011.

Almost immediately, death penalty opponents announced plans to pursue an initiative. Within months, they had collected 800,000 signatures - 300,000 more than needed - to qualify the issue for the ballot.

WHAT IT DOES

• Eliminate the death penalty in California.

• Require all existing condemned inmates be resentenced to serve life without possibility of parole.

• Divert $100 million from the state's general fund over the next four years to provide grants to local law enforcement agencies.

WHAT IT COSTS

• The $100 million in grants to law enforcement is the only fixed cost.

• The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates the state and counties will save because of the elimination of death penalty trials, which typically are more complex, require longer jury selection and more attorneys.

• Jail costs also could be reduced because inmates will no longer be held at local lock-ups awaiting outcome of a death penalty trial and subsequent penalty phase.

• LAO estimates savings of several tens of millions of dollars annually from reduced death penalty court cases. Those savings could be offset by defendants who would have accepted a plea deal to avoid potential death

MONEY WATCH

Supporters have raised about $4.6 million, including $1 million from the Atlantic advocacy Fund, a New York-based nonprofit aimed at supporting programs for the disadvantaged, and $1 million from Nicholas Pritzker, chairman and CEO of the Chicago-based Hyatt Development Corp. Opponents have raised $240,000 - most of it from law enforcement associations and unions.sentence now seeking a trial if that punishment is eliminated.

OPPONENTS

• District Attorney Jan Scully and other prosecutors.

• Peace Officers Research Association of California.

• Sacramento deputy sheriffs and police officers associations

WHAT OPPONENTS SAY

• Estimated cost savings are overstated.

• Death penalty delays are being caused by ACLU and other proponents of Proposition 34.

• Capital punishment is limited to only worst offenders and executions can be accelerated with minor changes to state policy.

SUPPORTERS

• American Civil Liberties Union

• Former death penalty supporters, including attorney Don Heller, who wrote the 1978 initiative that restored the death penalty

• Silicon Valley and entertainment leaders

WHAT SUPPORTERS SAY

• Death penalty is too costly to continue, especially in state with fiscal problems as bad as California's.

• Savings from elimination of death penalty could be channeled into increased investigations into murders and rapes.

• Current system hurts victim families by forcing them to endure years or decades of waiting for court battles to end.

ON THE WEB

Yes on 34: www.yeson34.org

No on 34: www.waitingforjustice.net

Editor's Note: Previous versions of this in print and online listed the wrong website addresses for supporters and opponents of the measure. Corrected 1:11 p.m. Oct. 7, 2012.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Sam Stanton



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