by Jeremy Leaming
Californians are set to engage in a high-profile debate over capital punishment, with an initiative to end the death penalty approved for the November ballot. The Los Angeles Times reports if the ballot measure passes “more than 700” death sentences would be commuted to life-without-parole sentences, making it that state’s “most severe form of criminal punishment.”
A coalition to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison lauded the approval of the measure for the November ballot, calling the current system “broken, expensive,” and a danger to innocent people on death row. (Former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti told the Times that with more than 700 people on death row, there is a strong possibility that at least one innocent person is among the group. Garcetti is also a supporter of the campaign to repeal the state’s death penalty and replace it with the Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement for California Act, or the SAFE California Act.)
Jeanne Woodford, former warden at San Quentin state prison and supporter of the SAFE California Act, said in a press statement, “Back in 1978 [when the state expanded its use of capital punishment], we did not have an alternative sentence that would keep convicted killers behind bars forever. We certainly did not know that we would spend $4 billion on 13 executions.”
The Los Angeles Times noted a three-year study of the state’s death penalty that concluded it cost “$183 million more to administer than life without possibility of parole, and that California’s 13 executions cost taxpayers $4 billion. The additional expense includes legal costs for expanded trials and appeals and for housing inmates in single cells.”
Fair and Unbalanced reports that “polls show California voters are ready to replace the death penalty, and join a nationwide trend.” If Californians vote to dump the death penalty, it will become the 18th state without capital punishment.