Only four times in the past century have California's voters supported ballot measures designed to ease the state's tough-on-crime laws. This year voters have the rare option of changing that pattern. For the first time in state history, two major crime-related initiatives that would soften the toughest laws on the books will appear on the same ballot, reported the Contra Costa Times.
Proposition 34 would repeal the death penalty. Proposition 34 gives voters the first opportunity in more than three decades to consider whether to scrap the death penalty and clear the largest death row in the nation's history. It would replace execution with life in prison without the possibility of parole and create a $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases.
It is opposed by law enforcement, victims' rights groups and former Republican Govs. Wilson and George Deukmejian, who argue that the death penalty should be preserved for the state's most heinous killers and that the system should be fixed and sped up, not scrapped.
With 726 inmates now on death row, California has executed just 13 murderers since 1978. No one has been executed since February 2006 because of legal challenges to the state's lethal injection procedures. Death row inmates' appeals now take decades to resolve.
The cost of carrying out the death penalty has grown so large that it has become the cornerstone of the Proposition 34 campaign. Rather than raising traditional arguments against the death penalty -- that it is unfair or risks executing the innocent -- the Yes on 34 campaign is urging voters to scrap the punishment because of the higher cost of everything from death penalty trials to housing death row inmates, reported the Times.
Californians continue to support the death penalty, although the margin has declined in polls since more than 70 percent of voters put the law back on the books in 1978. Two recent statewide polls, while showing a close call on Proposition 34, nevertheless showed majority support for capital punishment. And a recent Los Angeles Times/USC Dornsife poll showed that Republicans and independent voters are unswayed by the fiscal argument.
Proposition 36 asks voters to change the Three Strikes Law by reserving life sentences for the baddest of the bad -- while leaving many of its central features intact for violent, repeat criminals. But with crime rates relatively low statewide, proponents say there has never been a better time to test whether voters in this blue state are in the mood to be less red on public safety, reported the Times.
To read more: http://www.contracostatimes.com/politics-government/ci_21711742/california-has-chance-change-three-strikes-repeal-death?source=rss