Prop. 34: Will California Abolish the Death Penalty?

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In November, California voters will decide the fate of Proposition 34, a ballot measure that would overturn the death penalty for people found guilty of murder and replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

Proponents of the ballot measure say that passage would save the state and counties the expense of lengthy death penalty proceedings. They estimate the state would save $100 million annually for the first few years, followed by a $130 million increase thereafter. Prop. 34’s passage would also create the SAFE California Fund, an initiative that would provide resources for sheriffs and police departments as well as district attorney offices statewide.

“The campaign isn’t about a moral opinion of the death penalty,” says Daisy Vieyra, communications assistant for Yes on Proposition 34. “It’s about what is actually happening in the state of California…. Right now, with our state’s budget cuts, it doesn’t really seem feasible to fix or have [the death penalty].”

If the death penalty is abolished, the statewide prison population would likely increase. However, given the elongated time that many prisoners spend on death row, proponents believe the difference would be minimal and that it would be cheaper to serve a life sentence without parole. Since 1978, the state has spent $4 billion on the death penalty.

According to language in the law, Prop. 34 will “end a costly and ineffective practice, free up law enforcement resources to increase the rate at which homicide and rape cases are solved, and achieve fairness, equality and uniformity in sentencing.”

Opponents claim that the proposition’s numbers are misleading. Its passage, they say, would cost taxpayers $100 million over the next four years, and millions more down the road. Additionally, they maintain that the proposition would cost taxpayers at least $50,000 annually per convicted killer for such services as lifetime health care and housing.

According to Californians for Justice and Public Safety, the proposition, if passed, “would let serial killers, cop killers, child killers, and those who kill the elderly, escape justice. Proponents don’t acknowledge that when California’s death penalty was eliminated before, condemned criminals were released only to rape and kill again.”

Prop. 34 would also require that all prisoners serving a life sentence for murder be made to work, and that debts to crime victims be deducted from their pay. This is currently the practice in the state, but Prop. 34 would make it a requirement.

Opponents of the measure also say that the proposition unfairly punishes victims’ families, who have already suffered deeply from their loss. According to the voter information guide, capital murder victims include 225 children, 43 police officers, 235 individuals who were raped and murdered, and 90 who were tortured and murdered.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California, a statewide coalition formed to uphold the death penalty, claims that the proposition’s passage “would embolden the most vicious criminals and endanger law-abiding citizens as well as sworn peace officers.”

Those against the proposition argue that victims and their families deserve retribution. But supporters of Prop. 34 maintain that innocent people are frequently executed in the pursuit of justice.

“More than 100 innocent people have been sentenced to death in the U.S., and some have been executed,” proponents claim in the information guide. “We’ll never execute an innocent person with 34.”

Below is a timeline of the death penalty in California.

Mug shots courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

16 Comments

  1. Thank you for the very informative article. The timeline is really helpful in understanding the issue. Thanks

  2. As we all know, you cannot increase a inmates punishment over what existed in statute at the time of the crime, so these provisions, below, are unenforceable and will not happen, for any of those already on death row.

    In addition, forced labor is unenforceable, as well.

    “Prop. 34 would also require that all prisoners serving a life sentence for murder be made to work, and that debts to crime victims be deducted from their pay. This is currently the practice in the state, but Prop. 34 would make it a requirement.

  3. PROP. 34: The Truth Will Kill It
    Dudley Sharp

    An honest discussion about Prop 34 would result in its overwhelming defeat.

    COSTS

    Are the cost claims made by the pro Prop 34 folks accurate? Maybe not (1). The ACLU cost review was easily destroyed (1) and Mitchell and Alarcon, of the $4 billion study infamy, refuse to share their database (1), which we can presume has problems and, therefore, no one can, responsibly, depend upon that review.

    Is it possibly that life without parole (LWOP) may cost more than the death penalty? Yes (1).

    Is it required that California citizens allow their representatives to be so irresponsible with both their state budget and death penalty management? Of course not.

    Virginia has executed 75% of those sentenced to death and has done so within 7.1 years, on average.

    All states, inclusive of California, could implement similar protocols and save money over LWOP.

    INNOCENTS MORE PROTECTED WITH THE DEATH PENALTY

    Is it true that innocents are better protected by a death penalty protocol? Yes, in three different ways (2). Innocents are more at risk without the death penalty (2).

    contd

    • contd

      PROP. 34: UNPRINCIPLED? APPARENTLY.

      Ask the media (or insert any industry) this question.

      How principled are you?

      If you had a group of corrupt people, who only wanted to shut down the media, by sabotaging the media, would you say, OK, shut down all media?

      Or would you say, let’s clean it up, get you bad folks out of the picture, and make it work?

      A vote for Prop 34 is a vote for folks who have intentionally obstructed justice in these cases, meaning anti death penalty legislators, the defense bar and judges who have made the death penalty so irresponsible and who are the same folks telling us to reward them by giving them what they have been working for, based upon the horrible system they have engineered.

      A better idea.

      How about demanding a responsible system, such as Virginia’s, whereby 75% of those sentenced to death have been executed within 7.1 years, on average – a system similar to what Ca should have, if responsible folks were in charge.

      Calif has executed 1.4% of those sentenced because such mismanagement is what such obstructionists (read Prop 34) had in mind.

      contd

      • meatsack

        Yup, the anti-death penalty crowd has driven up the costs and then complains that it costs too much.

    • Elizabeth Zitrin

      It is the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that wrote in the ballot that a YES on Prop 34 will save $130 million a year.
      The bi-partisan California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice (ccfaj.org) found that there would be over $130 million a year in savings as well.
      Judge Arthur Alarcon was a supporter of the death penalty when his study found that we have spent over $4 Billion to execute 13 people — $308 million per execution.
      Every year, 46% of homicides are unsolved in California. That’s about 1000 homicides a year where no arrests are made. Prop 34 and the SAFE California Fund will put $100 million into solving those homicides and the 56% of reported rapes that are currently unsolved every year.
      Get the FACTS at YESon34.org.

  4. Elizabeth Zitrin

    YESon34.org Prop. 34 has over 1450 endorsements, including many law enforcement professionals. One of the many newspapers to endorse Prop 34 is the Sacramento Bee, which reversed its 155 year history of supporting the death penalty.
    The death penalty is irreparably broken. It is not a deterrent. Life in prison without possibility of parole is a sure, certain and sever penalty, which is what deters crime.
    Get the FACTS — YESon34.org

  5. Elizabeth Zitrin

    YESon34.org A YES vote on Prop 34, the SAFE California Act WILL protect the innocent.
    Read and watch the story of Franky Carrillo, who spend 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
    http://www.safecalifornia.org/stories/innocent/carrillo

  6. Estela

    Wait, I thought the money would go in order to focus on murder and rape cases, not just to the sheriffs.

    This is a difficult one,if we had a more reliable system with people full f common sense, and not just years on the job- I would support the death penalty.

    But, due to the many innocent people, especially the racial inequalities – I do not trust the system. Also, death seems too easy for many, but I wish we’d just serve them solitary confinement, instead of access to internet, and healthcare, and their buddies who actually rule the prisons.

    At this time, I don’t trust politicians, as really, money is too be made by their buddies if there are more people in prison.

    But, I hope this is at least a start at getting the right people in prison – molesters and murderers (versus stupid kids smoking dope, trying to rob a bank or stealing a bagel pizza).

    I really tire of hearing child molesters run free, and are rampant to commit more crimes, of rapists who have stolen the souls of dozens of young women. I hope California leads the way in something, once again.

    • Elizabeth Zitrin

      Estela, $100,000,000 will go into the SAFE California Fund in the first three years into the investigation of unsolved rape and murder cases. All of the additional savings will be available priorities for state spending because that $130 every year will not be wasted on this dysfunctional system.

      • Estela

        I have hope people are trying to solve our state’s problems. Thank you for adding to this discussion, and informing us as well.

    • Elizabeth Zitrin

      Life in prison without possibility of parole means forever. NObody has ever been released from a California LWOP sentence except for people who were exonerated. If they got the death penalty it could be too late to right the wrong. LWOP means death in prison. YESon34.org

  7. Patrick Boyd

    Vote YES on 34. It protects the community and provides real JUSTICE for all by incarcerating the killers for Life Without Possibility of Parole. California has proven for 34 years that Life Without Possibility of Parole means exactly what it says – NO Possibility of Parole. Directing a portion of the savings to improve solving rates for homicides and rapes is good public safety policy. It will send a clear message to those responsible for public safety that, 46% unsolved homicides, and 56% unsolved rapes (reported rapes) is a threat to the Public and an Injustice to the victims and their families. Vote for Justice. Vote YES on 34.
    Patrick Boyd
    Chief Probation Officer, Retired

  8. Chris Bernstien

    Prop. 34 proponents are perpetuating a huge FRAUD against California voters, knowing that with the millions of out-of-state dollars they can repeat their lies enough times that voters will begin to accept them. A Study by Judicial Watch concludes that Prop. 34 is “both disingenuous and deceptive.” Three former CA governors and every major law enforcement group in CA OPPOSE Pro. 34.

    Pro. 34 is dangerous, will cost taxpayers more, and was poorly thought through.

    Prop. 34 will NOT save money, but instead COST TAXPAYERS BILLIONS of dollars more in additional trials, prison changes, and escalating health care costs.

    Claims that Prop. 34 will save money are based upon a paper written by a former judge who has been advocating for abolishing the death penalty for decades (biased and inaccurate). A review of these numbers by the Legislative Analyst’s Office concludes that the assumptions supporting these claimed savings “may well be wrong.” Michael Genest, former State Of California Finance Director, found that these “savings claims are grossly exaggerated.” Also, the loss of the threat of the death penalty will substantially increase the total number of murder trials by taking away a major incentive for murderers to plead guilty.

    Prop. 34 ignores the escalating costs of medical care for life-time inmates. Prop. 34 will cost CA taxpayers billions more over the next several years. (It is these huge medical costs that are fueling the attack on life sentences under 3-strikes under Prop. 36.)

    Prop. 34 is DANGEROUS. Experts conclude that Pro. 34 will increase the number of murders in California. Criminals will be more brazen in their crimes without the death penalty. Also, there will be no deterrent for the 34,000 inmates already serving life from killing a guard or an inmate. They are already serving the maximum penalty.

    One of the key methods for “saving” money under Prop. 34 is to move death row inmates into the general population and house them from single-person cells with other inmates. One strong proponent of Prop. 34 admits this is unworkable– the risk of danger posed by mixing the prison population is too great, and would increase costs associated with such an arrangement.

    Life without parole is means they WILL GET OUT. Efforts are already being pursued by the same people supporting anti-punishment ballots and legislation to get rid of life sentences. (Human Rights Watch, Old Behind Bars, 2012.) On 9/30/12, Brown passed the first step, signing a bill to allow 309 inmates with life sentences for murder to be paroled after serving 25 years. Someone who has committed a brutal murder at age 20 could get out by age 45! Governors are also notorious for releasing inmates who should never be released. Convicted killers get out and kill again, such as Darryl Thomas Kemp, Kenneth Allen McDuff, and Bennie Demps.

    ARGUMENTS OF INNOCENCE BOGUS. Proponents can’t identify one innocent person executed in CA. They can’t identify one person on CA’s death row who has exhausted his appeals and has a plausible claim of innocence. Quite simply, CA’s appellate process, designed by the very same people promoting Prop. 34, is 100% effective in weeding out the innocent. Every person Prop. 34 proponents refer to are either non-death-penalty cases or out-of-state cases where defendants do not get the benefit of CA’s appellate process.

    Don’t get fooled by the bombardment of lies. See cadeathpenalty.webs. com and voteno34. org for more facts explaining why you should NOT SUPPORT Prop. 34.

    • Beau

      This will not cost more. I don`t think the math is being done correctly. It cost much more on appeals and decisions to make a person qualified to be put to death, and set aside with special treatments in institutions. An inmate is set free with death and with a life sentence will be punished for life. And I can guarantee you that inmates themselves will make the rapist, child molesters, elderly abusers pay much much longer than that death penalty. With savings of cost on the death penalty cases. Throw them to the pack of dogs and let them live with shame. Not all these men deserve the escape of being put to death. And not all of these men have did worse than the next lifer/killer inmates!

  9. Patrick Boyd

    Vote YES on 34. Go to the YESon34.org website and see why Don Heller, Ron Briggs, and Jeanne Woodford say we should join the League of Women Voters, victims families, numerous faith organizations, and career peace officers in voting YES on 34. Don Heller is the former US Attorney who wrote the current death penalty law; Ron Briggs was the campaign director for the initiative that established the current death penalty law; and Jeanne Woodford was responsible for four executions as the former Warden of San Quentin State Prison. Hear their first hand explanations of how your YES on 34 vote is a vote for JUSTICE. Vote YES on 34.
    Patrick Boyd
    Chief Probation Officer, Retired

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