Capitol Alert

New initiative would end California death penalty

Actor Mike Farrell waits to speak at a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation public hearing about the death penalty at San Quentin on June 30, 2009.
Actor Mike Farrell waits to speak at a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation public hearing about the death penalty at San Quentin on June 30, 2009. Sacramento Bee file

Already on life support, California’s death penalty would be abolished entirely under a proposed ballot initiative.

The proposal would strike death as a possible punishment from the state’s Penal Code, substituting life imprisonment without parole where state law currently allows for the death penalty. Its proponent, actor Mike Farrell, would have 180 days from when the secretary of state’s office enters the measure into circulation to collect 365,880 signatures.

California has not executed a death row inmate in nearly a decade, a point Farrell’s initiative stresses in calling the death penalty an “empty promise” that drains public resources.

“The state spends millions of taxpayer dollars providing lawyers for death row inmates, only to see the murderers it has sentenced to death by execution die of old age in prison,” the proposal reads.

It also points to the “fatal mistakes” of innocent people being sentenced to death as a reason to end capital punishment in California.

“Wrongful convictions rob innocent people of decades of their lives, waste tax dollars, and re-traumatize the victims’ families, while the real killers remain free to kill again,” according to the proposal.

In 2012, California voters rejected a death penalty repeal, Proposition 34, by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. Polls have consistently shown support for capital punishment.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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