Props 62 and 66 – Nay or Yea on the Death Penalty

by on October 11, 2016 · 0 comments

in California, Culture, Election, Politics

Photo by kelseywynns

Photo by kelseywynns

An eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth would lead to a world of the blind and toothless.–Book of Exodus [21:24]

By Doug Porter

Both points of view regarding the death penalty managed to get a measure on the November ballot.

Prop 62 will eliminate the death penalty. Prop 66 will streamline the process of executing people. If both pass, the measure with the most votes will supersede the other.

In a perfect world, there could be a discussion about the advisability of government sanctioned executions involving actual facts and figures. We won’t see much of that sort of thing this fall.

The death penalty is an emotional issue. Facts matter much less than fear.

It doesn’t matter that murder rates in non-death penalty states are consistently lower than those with the death penalty. Or that a recent survey of criminologists by the University of Colorado found that 88% of criminologists believed that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent for future crimes.

The Golden State houses the largest death row population in the Western hemisphere. It costs taxpayers eighteen times more to house a prisoner on death row than life in prison without parole. African Americans and Latinos make up 67% of those on death row. Sixty-six people convicted of murder in California have had their murder convictions overturned because new evidence proved they were innocent.

The one fact everybody does agree on is that California’s system for state-sponsored executions is broken.

Prop 62 addresses this by replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Opponents say the system has been sabotaged by do-gooders and a faster track system (Prop 66) is what’s needed.

Victims Testify

We’re seeing see a parade of victims, or the relatives of victims arguing for capital punishment on the media. (And a few against.) We’ll be told that justice won’t served until the perpetrators of heinous crimes are dead and gone. We get reminded often in opposition arguments about the gory details of those on death row.

Former Gov. Pete Wilson heads up the list of people opposing repeal. County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is also on that list.

Police and District Attorneys pretty much all love the death penalty, and it shows when you look at who’s supporting or opposing each proposition. They see close-up the agony of victims and the senseless brutality of the street. This shapes –and some would say warps– their perspective.

facebook-57-short-versionLaw enforcement’s political tentacles are deeply embedded in the community. A loyal reader alerted me to a Facebook discussion this morning about how neighborhood watch captains in the City of San Diego are using their positions to advocate against sentencing reform (Prop 57- opposed by Mayor Faulconer) and marijuana legalization (Prop 64 – opposed by SDPD Chief Zimmerman).

Don Heller, the guy who wrote California’s 1978 death penalty law, and Ron Briggs, who led the political effort to get it enacted, have both changed sides and now support Proposition 62. The coalition supporting repeal includes labor, faith-based, civil rights and liberal groups.

Early polling (see below) predicts neither this measure nor Prop 66 will pass.

So I have a suggestion for a sure-fire ballot measure for 2018 to end the logjam: Let the prosecuting DA be the executioner. However, if the person killed is exonerated, the prosecutor is guilty of capital murder and in turn faces the death penalty.


For More Information

Proposition 62


Repeals death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to existing death sentences. Increases the portion of life inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution. Fiscal Impact: Net ongoing reduction in state and county criminal justice costs of around $150 million annually within a few years, although the impact could vary by tens of millions of dollars depending on various factors.

A YES vote would: make the most serious penalty available a prison term of life without the possibility of parole. Offenders who are currently under a sentence of death would be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

A NO vote would: allow certain offenders convicted for first-degree murder to be sentenced to death. There would be no change for offenders currently under a sentence of death.

Yes on 62 Website
Yes on 62 Facebook
Yes on 62 Twitter

No on 62 Website
No on 62 Facebook
No on 62 Twitter

Ballotpedia Page

Polling: A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times taken in early September indicated 51% of voters would oppose Prop 62, 40% would support and 8% were undecided.


A Faster Death Penalty, That’s the Ticket(?)

The moral arguments for and against Proposition 66 are mirror images of those on Prop 62, so I’ll just enumerate the specifics as told in the ballot argument, written by Jackie Lacey, District Attorney of Los Angeles County, Kermit Alexander, a family member of a multiple homicide crime, and Shawn Welch, President of the Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association.

  1. All state appeals should be limited to 5 years.
  2. Every murderer sentenced to death will have their special appeals lawyer assigned immediately. Currently, it can be five years or more before they are even assigned a lawyer.
  3. The pool of available lawyers to handle these appeals will be expanded.
  4. The trial courts who handled the death penalty trials and know them best will deal with the initial appeals.
  5. The State Supreme Court will be empowered to oversee the system and ensure appeals are expedited while protecting the rights of the accused.
  6. The State Corrections Department (Prisons) will reform death row housing; taking away special privileges from these brutal killers and saving millions

Much of what Prop 66 proposes to do (or undo) will inevitably be challenged in court. The part about expanding the pool of available lawyers alone will generate Federal court cases based on the question of competent representation, which even the current US Supreme Court has expressed concerns about.

They’ll be lucky to see appeals on Prop 66 resolved within the time frame they propose for death penalty convictions. And the time limit imposed on appeals applies only to state courts.

No major newspaper (as of this writing) in the State of California has editorialized against eliminating the death penalty (Prop 62) or in favor Prop 66’s proposal to streamline the process.

Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Californians have been offered two options on the Nov. 8 ballot to “fix” a system of capital punishment that all sides agree has produced enormous legal bills, no semblance of deterrence to would-be murderers and too little justice to victims’ loved ones over the past four decades. … The other, Prop. 66, proposes a highly complex, probably very expensive and constitutionally questionable scheme for streamlining the appeals process in hopes of shaving years off the timeline between conviction and execution. Even the most ardent advocates of capital punishment should be wary of the promises in Prop. 66. Its core time-saving provisions would reduce the number of habeas petitions and tighten the deadlines for filing (within one year of acquiring an attorney) and resolving appeals (within five years). In so doing, it brushes aside the legal and practical realities in the way of achieving any time savings.”

For More Information

Proposition 66


Changes procedures governing state court challenges to death sentences. Designates superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions. Requires appointed attorneys who take noncapital appeals to accept death penalty appeals. Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods. Fiscal Impact: Unknown ongoing impact on state court costs for processing legal challenges to death sentences. Potential prison savings in the tens of millions of dollars annually.

A YES vote would: change court procedures for legal challenges to death sentences, such as time limits on those challenges and revised rules to increase the number of available attorneys for those challenges. Condemned inmates could be housed at any state prison.

A NO vote would: mean no changes to the state’s current court procedures for legal challenges to death sentences. The state would still be limited to housing condemned inmates only at certain state prisons.

Yes on 66 Website
Yes on 66 Facebook
Yes on 66 Twitter

No on 66 Website
No on 66 Facebook
No on 66 Twitter

Ballotpedia Page

Polling :The Field Poll/IGS Poll taken in September indicated 35% of voters supported Prop 66, 23% opposed and 42% were undecided.

End Notes: Our endorsements will be included in our General Election Progressive Voter Guide, published shortly after mail-in ballots are delivered in October.

An excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at SDFP.


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