Capitol Alert

Loretta Sanchez backs repeal of California’s death penalty

Rep. Loretta Sanchez presents a Certificate of Congressional Recognition to Mexico's Consul of Mexico in Santa Ana, Calif., during the official inauguration of the consular office last year.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez presents a Certificate of Congressional Recognition to Mexico's Consul of Mexico in Santa Ana, Calif., during the official inauguration of the consular office last year. AP

Decrying California’s administration of capital punishment as unfair, inefficient and ineffective, U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez on Wednesday endorsed a fall ballot initiative to repeal the state’s long-dormant death penalty.

“Despite decades of research, commentary and judicial review, the death penalty in California remains an ineffective deterrent and does not meet the constitutional standards of due process,” Sanchez, a veteran Democratic congresswoman from Orange County, said in a prepared statement announcing the endorsement.

The measure, which will appear in the Nov. 8 ballot as Proposition 62, is being advanced by former M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell. It would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

While California has not executed a death row inmate since 2006, supporters say the measure is needed to guard against a process they consider costly, inhumane and destined to end the life of people who are wrongly convicted.

“When society undertakes to impose the ultimate sentence on its citizens it must meet the most stringent standards of fairness and due process,” Sanchez said.

The race to succeed departing Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer pits Sanchez against California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Harris does not take positions on ballot measures because of her office’s role in preparing their titles and summaries.

Still, Harris has long opposed the death penalty, a position that nearly sidetracked her rise in California politics when her 2010 opponent, then-Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican, criticized Harris for refusing to seek the death penalty for the 2004 killer of San Francisco police Officer Isaac Espinoza.

As attorney general, Harris promised to follow the law, and even defended the death penalty in court. She reiterated her personal opposition in a recent interview with The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board.

“Your question asks, ‘How will it end?’ My answer is, ‘With the voters.’ ” Harris said. “I think, ultimately, the voters of California are going to make the decision.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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