California Proposition #34

October 1, 2012
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Each week I will go over 1 of the 11 propositions that will be on the California Ballot in November. Today’s post goes over Proposition 34, repealing the Death Penalty.  Are you ready? Let’s go!

Proposition 34 – Repealing the Death Penalty

TDL Description

 

Background

Interestingly, the summary analysis for Proposition 34 (4 pages) starts with a description of the death penalty process so that you are aware of the actual time and the different steps it takes to implement the death pentalty within the state of California.

First.. 1st Degree murder is defined as killing of another human being deliberately or during the act of commiting another crime. For instance if you rob a bank and happen to kill someone.  First degree murder is punishable with 25 years in prison with a chance of parole.However, if you commit this murder in a special circumstance, like you did it for the money, or racial profiling ..state law can have you sentenced to life imprisonment and not parole or the death penalty.

The Death Penalty isn’t as simple as you might think. In California there are two phases to this kind of sentencing. The first phase is the criminal trial, where you are found guilty of murder and the circumstance. The second phase is will decide if the death penalty should be applied.

But that’s not all. After the the sentencing is carried out, the defendant has the right to a series of appeals to overturn the decision.

  • Direct appeal – going to the California Supreme Court to argue that a state or federal law was violated during the trial (ie improper inclusion of evidence)
  • Habeas Corpus – legal challenges that are different than what is discussed in a supreme court appeal (..like my lawyer didn’t defend me properly..)
  • US Supreme Court – if the California Supreme Court appeal isnt’ successful the defendant can ask the US Supreme Court to review the decision
  • Governor – a defendant can ask the governor for a pardon.

The summary analysis states that the series of appeals can take decades to complete. All the while the defendent is held on Death Row. This costs the state money, not only for their stay in prison, but the costs of trial, prosecution representation at appeals, and if the defendent has no money, defense representation during appeals.

Since 1978, when the Califiornia Death Penalty Law was enacted, we have sentenced 900 individuals to the death pentalty. We have only executed 14. Another 158 individuals either died of natural causes or had their sentences reduced.

We still have 725 individuals who are in death row at San Quentin (males) or in Chowchilla (females). These individuals in death row are in single cells and get two guard escorts whenever they leave their cell.

Proposal

Elimination of Death Sentences .. no defendant can be sentenced to death by the state. Those that are currently sentenced to death would be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In addition, any appeals that are pending in the state of California would still be ongoing, even though the sentence was reduced.

Inmate work requirement .. California has a general law requiring prisoners to work, however there are exceptions due to special security circumstances. This measure would require that all who found guilty of murder to work and have their pay docked to pay for debts owed to victims of the crime.

Funding for local law enforcement .. $100 million would be tranfered from the General Fund to theSAFE California Fund (local and state police, district attorneys and sheriffs departments) to increase the rates of homicide and rape cases solved.

FISCAL Effects.. (+ savings, – costs, ?? don’t know)

  • Cheaper court cases .. shorter trials eliminated the need for second sentencing phase. (+)
  • Cheaper county jail costs .. defendants for murder are usually held in county jail til the end of the trial. Shorter trial, shorter time in county jail. (+)
  • Savings from appeals .. the state could save up to $50 million annually for not having dealth penalty appeals (this is offset by current appeals cases, that will still be in progress) (+)
  • State Corrections .. this is mixed. There could be increased costs due to more individuals in prison, however that could be offset by the savings of having to house inmates on Death Row. Death Row is more expensive because of having to house them in single cells and the extra security measures. (+/-)
  • Transfering 100 million to SAFE California .. well the obvious $100 million cost, but with increased solving of homicides and rapes could cause an increase in court cases as well as more money needed to inprison those convicted. (+/-)
  • Other Fiscal Effects: ..this could reduce the need for building more death row prisons, but also could increase the need for more general prisons. Finally the summary analysis says this could have an affect on how many murders are committed, but wouldn’t comment on if there was a net increase or decrease.  (??)

PROS and CONS

Pros

On SFgate.. Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles District Attorney, writes that we can save money and it just makes sense! 

  • California’s death penalty is broken beyond repair, hideously expensive, and inevitably carries the risk of executing an innocent person”..
  • The Office of Legislative Analysis says we can save upwards of $130 million a year.
  • We can avoid making the constly mistake of killing an innocent victim.
  • We should be death penalty money on education.

Cons..

Whereas Stephen Wagstaffe, the San Mateo County District Attorney and Marc Klass daughter of Polly Klass, a murder victim feel write on SFgate that repealing the death penalty would only increase crime..

  • Proposition 34 would embolden violent criminals..”make no mistake!”
  • Let’s killers escape the death penalty and requires Californians to pay millions for lifetime health care and housing.
  • Mistaking innocent for the guilty? Governor Brown says there are no innocent people on death row!
  • This doesn’t save money..it’s going to cost $100 million!

What do you think?

Are you for or against? Got any examples and stories to help make your case? Share!!

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