Friday, May 21, 2010

Death Penalty Likely Issue in California Elections

The California Democratic Party has formally come out in favor of abolishing the death Penalty. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the platform plank was approved April 18 at the party's convention in Los Angeles. The plank includes a declaration that Democrats will "replace the death penalty with a term of permanent incarceration, which will serve to protect the public, provide swift and certain justice for victims' families, and save the state an estimated $1 billion over the next five years."

The Chronicle reported that nationally, the Democratic platform backed capital punishment from 1992 through 2000 but took no position in 2004, with death penalty opponent John Kerry heading the ticket. The platform in 2008, with Barack Obama as the candidate, said only that "the death penalty must not be arbitrary," and that defendants should have competent lawyers and access to DNA testing.

California has the nation's largest Death Row, with more than 700 inmates, but has executed only 13 men since 1992, when the current law was implemented. Executions have been on hold since 2006, when a federal judge found that the state's lethal injection methods could inflict prolonged and excruciating pain on a condemned inmate. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has found that lethal injection does not violate the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment, Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008).

According to the Chronicle, Republican candidates are likely to raise the capital-punishment issue this fall against Attorney General Jerry Brown the likely Democratic nominee. Brown has been an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. The state Republican Party platform supports the death penalty for murder.

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