California voters will have their 1st opportunity in more than 3 decades to
consider whether to keep the death penalty.
During news conferences Thursday in San Francisco and 3 other cities across the
state, backers of a proposed ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty
announced they had more than enough signatures to put the explosive question on
the November ballot. More than 800,000 signatures were gathered, 300,000 more
The SAFE California Act would scrap capital punishment and replace it with life
in prison without the possibility of parole. If approved, the law would convert
the death sentences of the state's 720 death row inmates to life in prison
terms and eliminate the death penalty option in murder cases.
Death penalty opponents are pushing the measure as a way to save the state as
much as $180 million per year, arguing that capital punishment has become an
expensive waste of money at a time when California is slashing spending on
everything from schools to public safety.
Jeanne Woodford, former chief of the state prison system and San Quentin
warden, is leading the campaign, calling the death penalty no more than a
"(This) will put an end to its intolerable risk and exorbitant cost," she said
at the news conference.
Former Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell announced
achieving the signature goal Thursday and insisted the state's voters will be
ready to abandon the death penalty.
Other key figures have raised questions about the 1978 death penalty law in
recent months, from state Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to Don Heller, a
former prosecutor who helped craft the 1978 law.
Death penalty opponents are banking on arguments that California's system is
broken, citing the fact there have been just 13 executions since the state
restored capital punishment 34 years ago. There also has not been an execution
in six years, the result of legal challenges to the lethal injection method
that are unlikely to be resolved for at least another year.
But death penalty supporters are already lining up to combat the measure,
saying the cost savings would vanish if the state resumes executions and begins
to clear its death row. Law enforcement groups such as the district attorney's
association and police groups, along with criminal justice advocacy groups, are
expected to campaign against the measure.
Despite the liberal reputation, polls have shown California voters strongly
support the death penalty.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, who have both expressed
opposition to the death penalty in their careers, have taken no position yet on
the measure, according to their offices.
(source: Mercury News)