Oct 12, 2016 (San Diego) The death penalty is one of the most contentious issues in the United States. For the first time it also has lost majority support in 45 years. It is in this environment that California will have two initiatives on the ballot. 62 would repeal it in the state. You can find the text of 62 here.
This is the comparison from Ballotpedia, and we are using it since it does a very good job
|Proposition 62||Proposition 66|
|Repeals death penalty||Keeps the death penalty in place|
|Replaces the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment for murder||Changes death penalty procedures to speed up the appeals process by putting trial courts in charge of initial petitions challenging death penalty convictions, establishing a time frame for death penalty review, and requiring appointed attorneys to work on death penalty cases|
|Retroactively applies to prisoners already on death row at the time that the measure would take effect||Stipulates that all effects would occur once Proposition 66 is enacted, and authorizes death row inmate transfers among California prisons.|
|Would require prisoners sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole to work and pay restitution to victims’ families. The portion of wages to be provided as restitution would be increased to 60 percent.||Would require prisoners on death row to work while in prison and pay restitution to victims’ families. The portion of wages to be provided as restitution would be increased to 70 percent.|
|Stipulates that any provision found to be invalid will not affect the other provisions of the measure||Stipulates that other death penalty measures approved would be void in the event that more affirmative votes are given for Proposition 66|
The choice is pretty clear. Voters can out right repeal it, or reform it.
The question is not just moral, but also cost. The death penalty is very expensive. Significantly from the text: “Since 1978, California has spent more than $4 billion on a death penalty system that has sentenced nearly one thousand criminals to death by execution but has executed only 13 people. Even though there are over 700 inmates now on death row, California has not executed anyone in almost eleven years.” In effect, the state has a life in prison system. This has also been a finding by the courts. In 2014 it was found unconstitutional since effectively it is life in prison with a distant death sentence, and in 2015 that was overturned by the Ninth Circuit.
The list of supporters is long and deep. We suggest visiting ballotpedia. They arguments in favor are as follows:
- The proposition would save taxpayer money by replacing a costly, inefficient system that is unworkable.
- The proposition would provide criminals the opportunity to work and pay restitution to victims’ families.
- The proposition would provide victims’ families closure.
- The proposition would eliminate the risk of executing and innocent person.
- The proposition would erase the most extreme racial inequality in the criminal justice system, the disparity in death penalty sentencing.
- The proposition is supported by former death penalty advocates.
The opposition includes almost all law enforcement, as well as the Republican party, and almost every District Attorney in the state. The arguments made are as follows:
- The proposition would protect the worst criminals while diminishing protection of victims’ rights.
- The proposition would cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
- The proposition would end the death penalty system when it should be mended.
Proposition 66 would shorten the court of appeals procedure to 5 years. Effectively in theory it will remove the clog in the system that has prevented most executions. It would replace the California Supreme Court with trial courts for hearings after conviction and sentencing. It will put the same trial judge in charge of those hearings.
From the text:
1509. (a) This section applies to any petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by a person in custody pursuant to a judgment of death. A writ of habeas corpus pursuant to this section is the exclusive procedure for collateral attack on a judgment of death. A petition filed in any court other than the court which imposed the sentence should be promptly transferred to that court unless good cause is shown for the petition to be heard by another court. A petition filed in or transferred to the court which imposed the sentence shall be assigned to the original trial judge unless that judge is unavailable or there is other good cause to assign the case to a different judge.
The supporters of this measure are almost to a one the same who oppose the repeal of the death penalty. The opponents are also almost the same. Yes every law enforcement group, and district attorney is for it, as well as the Republican party. They argue:
- The proposition would keep the death penalty system, which California needs.
- The proposition would speed up the death penalty appeals process while ensuring that no innocent person is executed.
- The proposition would mean that the worst criminals receive the strongest sentence.
- The proposition would provide closure to victims’ families.
- The proposition would save taxpayers millions of dollars.
Arguments against it are as follows:
- The proposition would cost taxpayers millions of dollars unnecessarily, due to increased prison spending, legal defense, death row facility construction, and litigation.
- The proposition is poorly written and confusing.
- The proposition would increase California’s risk of executing an innocent person, and would remove important legal safeguards.
This will be a hotly contested issue. If both should fail to obtain majority support the system will remain as is. This is often the result of two competing propositions.