Voter Cheat Sheet — Prop. 62 Repeals Death Penalty; Prop. 66 Changes Death Penalty Procedures
Before Angelenos head to the polls on Nov. 8, we are breaking down the ballot into some quick reads to get you up to speed on what's up for a vote. Read more about the other propositions here.
What’s at stake: If approved by voters, Proposition 62 will repeal the death penalty and make life without parole the maximum sentence for murder.
In November, voters will decide the fate of the nearly 750 inmates currently on death row. If Proposition 62 passes, the sentences of these condemned inmates will be commuted to life without parole and it will eliminate the death penalty going forward.
Some supporters of the ballot measure argue the death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment, while others say it’s ineffective and costly. Opponents contend that the death penalty is necessary to punish the worst of the worst.
The state has been in this position before. In 1972, a court ruling temporarily struck down the death penalty, commuting the sentences of the condemned, which included Charles Manson, the infamous cult leader, and Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin.
Six years later, voters approved a measure that again permitted capital punishment. Since then, around 930 inmates have been sentenced to death, but more than 60 sentences were eventually commuted, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Supporters of repeal argue the judicial system is not foolproof and that innocent people may be put to death. In fact, 156 people have been exonerated nationwide since 1973, including three in California, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Opponents of repealing say there are no innocent people on death row, pointing to comments made by Gov. Jerry Brown, a former attorney general, to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012.
“I know people say, ‘Oh, there have been all these innocent people,’ Well, I have not seen one name on death row that’s been told to me,” Brown said at the time. In this cycle, Brown has not taken a position on either measure.
Proposition 66 will speed up an appeals process that currently takes decades.
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The one thing both sides on both measures agree on is that the current system is broken.
Due to legal complications related to lethal injection procedures, the state has not executed anyone since 2006. The majority of death row inmates will die long before their ceremonial last meal.
Since 1978, only 15 inmates have been executed, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Meanwhile, more than 100 inmates died before execution.
At the moment, there are around 750 inmates on death row, the majority of whom are trudging through the decades-long appeals process at a high cost to the state, which spends $55 million each year on legal challenges, according to LAO. That includes the cost of both prosecutors and court-appointed defense attorneys.
To speed up the process, Proposition 66 calls for a five-year time limit — a time frame critics have called “arbitrary.” To help meet the five-year cap, the measure would increase the pool of eligible appellate attorneys qualified to represent condemned inmates by forcing them to do it.
Many attorneys who are qualified choose not to take post-conviction death penalty cases because of inadequate funding from the state, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Proposition 66 also would increase the number of courts in which cases could be heard by kicking habeas corpus petitions (one of the two types of challenges) back to the original court to determine if an error occurred.
Supporters of the measure say this will expedite the process by having the original courts, which know the cases best, handle the original appeals. But opponents argue this provision creates a conflict of interest.
As of April, there were 49 condemned inmates waiting for attorneys to be appointed for direct appeals (the other type of challenge) and 360 waiting for habeas corpus petitions, with hundreds of both kinds of cases pending before the state Supreme Court, according to LAO.
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