Capitol Alert

Silicon Valley donors give early to abolish death penalty

The lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in 2010. The November 2016 ballot could include proposals to abolish the death penalty or increase its use.
The lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in 2010. The November 2016 ballot could include proposals to abolish the death penalty or increase its use. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

A proposed ballot measure to abolish the death penalty in California has attracted some big-dollar help from Silicon Valley.

Anti-capital punishment activist Mike Farrell, a former star of the TV show “MASH,” filed “The Justice that Works Act” last month. Supporters await clearance from the attorney general’s office to begin collecting the 365,880 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Already, though, some deep-pocketed donors are lining up behind the proposal. Taxpayers for Sentencing Reform, proponents’ campaign committee, late last week reported a $150,000 donation from Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings, $150,000 from Stanford computer science professor Nicholas McKeown, and $10,000 from Integrated Archive Systems, a company led by prominent Democratic donor Amy Rao.

The last person executed in California was Clarence Ray Allen in 2006.

Hastings and McKeown donated $250,000 and $437,500, respectively, to the last death penalty elimination measure, Proposition 34 in 2012.

Any 2016 initiative to end the death penalty, though, could face competition from a proposal meant to put more people to death in California, which hasn’t executed an inmate in almost a decade.

Last week, death-penalty supporters filed the “Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016.” The measure’s proponent is Kermit Alexander, whose mother, sister and two young nephews were murdered in 1984, and whose killer is on death row.

Among the measure’s proposed changes, it would put the California Supreme Court in charge of overseeing an expedited death-penalty appeals process. Execution drugs would be easier to get and doctors couldn’t be punished for administering them. In addition, able-bodied inmates facing death would have to work and pay restitution to victims’ families.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 5:20 p.m. Oct. 26 to correct the number of valid voter signatures required. It was updated at 1:10 p.m. Oct. 27 to correct to Proposition 34 the previous measure to which Hastings and McKeown contributed.

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