California to vote on abolishing death penalty

 
San Quentin Prison, San Francisco Bay (file pic) San Quentin is one of the most famous death row sites in the US

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Voters in California are to be asked whether they want to abolish the state's death penalty law.

The measure will appear on November's ballot after more than 500,000 people signed up to back the proposal.

The measure would see death row inmates have their sentences commuted to life. Just 13 people have been executed since the law was re-introduced in 1978.

Backers say abolition could save California $100m (£62m) per year, but opponents say justice would be harmed.

"Our system is broken, expensive and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake," said Jeanne Woodford, a former warden of San Quentin Prison, home to the largest death row unit in the US.

Ms Woodford is now an anti-death penalty advocate and is named as the official proposer of the measure, which is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Ms Woodford and other supporters say the cash savings would be achieved by taking prisoners off death row and by cutting down on fees for lawyers arguing death penalty cases. The money could be better spent investigating unsolved crimes, backers of the measure say.

Under the terms of the measure those sentenced to life in prison for murder would in future have to take up jobs while incarcerated.

'Political points'

With the state of California wracked by long-standing budget issues, there is wide acceptance that the death penalty system needs reform.

Data from the Death Penalty Information Center shows that at the start of the year the state had 723 inmates on death row. The US as a whole had 3,189.

But no inmate has been put to death in California since 2006, and a respected study in 2009 noted that the state was spending some $184m each year to keep death row and the death penalty infrastructure up and running.

Opponents of the measure argue that the principle of the death penalty is valid and should remain, but say the constant and costly appeals and legal fees are inflating the costs.

"On behalf of crime victims and their loved ones who have suffered at the hands of California's most violent criminals, we are disappointed that the ACLU and their allies would seek to score political points in their continued efforts to override the will of the people and repeal the death penalty," former Sacramento prosecutor McGregor Scott told the Associated Press.

The death penalty measure is the fifth to qualify for November's ballot, California's secretary of state said on Monday.

Other measures deal with water costs, political contributions, car insurance and local legislative boundaries.

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 96.

    78: think about it: And given that in the US there is real racial skewing so that there are many more minorities on death row, and given that here in the US the statistics show that the states without the death penalty have a lower murder rate per thousand people than the states with the death penalty, it makes sense to do away with the death penalty here in the US.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 95.

    #92 John: "the US is no better than China, Iran, N. Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and about a dozen others."


    Any statistics to prove it?

    Any 1st hand experience in facing justice in China, N. Korea, Iran?


    Do you know how many excutions were conducted in PRC last year?

    And a year before? And a year before that?!

    [and that only acc. to OFFICIAL Chinese regime's statistics]

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 94.

    78: think about it: In the US they don't hang people. They use the electric chair, fatal drug injection, or firing squad, depending on the state. The high cost of the death penalty is to sequester juries, allow a huge number of appeals, and have much tighter security for the prisoners involved. And given that so many men on death row have been exonerated in the last 10 years or so in the US . . .

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 93.

    74:progfan: And your evidence that religion is the problem is what? Especially in that you agree that if these killers had religion they wouldn't be out killing people.

    75:Rikiiboy:Strong walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage. Minds innocent and quiet take that for an heritage. Richard Lovelace

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 92.

    Search for a map of countries that use the death penalty: the US is no better than China, Iran, N. Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and about a dozen others. In believe there is absolutely no reason for death to be meted out by a government state. Logically, if we believe that killing is wrong, then state-sponsored killing is wrong, too. Give life sentences, throw away the key, and put them to work.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 91.

    4.AllenT2

    [California] "letting millions of illegals into the state leading to bankruptcy."




    In June US Supreme Court will review Arizona SB1070, since Obama Administration claims that state has no right to protect itself from the illegal invasion in the absence of the pertinent federal law/action.


    BTW. SCOTUS will also review legality of Obama's Health (s)Care plan.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 90.

    Hey, ACLU!

    How about abolishing death penalty for potential victims of murderous criminals?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 89.

    Until such time as we are able to give life, we should not be too ready to take it away.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 88.

    Why would California wanted to abolished the death penalty for in that state? They'll use both death penalty, life in jail or prison with or without the possibility of parole, or probation, hard labor, community service for a deal.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 87.

    The death penalty is, and always has been, an emotive subject and therefore unsuitable for political debate. As such, it clouds judgement leading to mistakes which have happened and will continue to happen. The death penalty is better abolished but life should always mean life.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 86.

    progfan71 (70),

    “...we are not civilized, by any stretch of the imagination.”

    That would depend on what criteria you use to evaluate “civilized”.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 85.

    The death sentence was all about saving money. It was thought to be cheaper to kill prisoners than feed them for life. This argument is now not true.
    Also, places with a death sentence have seen no reduction in violent crimes and sometimes there is an INCREASE. The death penalty now serves no purpose in a civilised society.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 84.

    Still have not seen a reasonable opinion on my comment #69 about Anders Breivik. No thoughts? Does his kind deserve mercy from society? If so then why were the Nazi elite executed for their crimes? Is his killing of 71 innocent young people a lesser atrocity than the death camps? Too bad there weren't misguided bleeding heart liberals around during the Nurmberg trials as there are today.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 83.

    California maintains Felons who are convicted of murder, sexual assault, and grand theft. Juries should have a right to order the executions of heinous criminals. Sacramento can not afford the expense of keeping these bizarre prisoners.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 82.

    the death penalty should be abolish all over the country not just California is unhuman and for a society that preaches the world about human rights then the US in general lucks behind most of these countries

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 81.

    Will the state supreme court overturn this voter proposition should it pass like they overturned Proposition 8?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 80.

    Even "Justice" isn't going to bring back dead loved ones or undo rape. "Exhile" would make more sense for a lot of crimes than paying for an expensive prison sentence in a system statistically proven as a failure. But abolishing the death penalty will help us to be less barbaric.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 79.

    I very much believe that those who have perpatrated serious crimes can be returned back to society. If abolishing the capital punishment does save money as claimed in the article it should be spent on perfecting the capacity of getting the perpatrators back into society. Justice is achieved that way.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 78.

    I don't know why people say that DP is not a deterent, yes there have been many studies that show is it does not wok but there have been even more to the contrary.
    I am in favour of the DP and think putting it to the vote is a good idea. (its democratic and I would like the same choice here in the UK)
    How and why it costs so much just seems ridiculous, I mean how much can a legnth of rope cost?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 77.

    @76.Fractal ,
    Exactly.

 

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