Another View: What to know about Proposition 62 and 66 – Death PenaltyBy: Randi Swisley / Placer County League of Women Voters
Editor's Note: This is another in a series of columns by Randi Swisley, president of the League of Women Voters of Placer County, exploring propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Two propositions on the November ballot address the death penalty. They are discussed together here to allow easier reference as your make your decision on how to vote on each of them.
Proposition 62 asks voters if the death penalty in California should be eliminated and replaced with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Today, people convicted of first-degree murder that includes “special circumstances,” such as multiple victims, hate crimes, or killing for financial gain, can be sentenced either to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole, or to death.
Two trials are required to sentence someone to death: one to establish guilt and one to decide the penalty. Death-penalty convictions are automatically appealed, and they may also go through a second stage of appeals in higher courts, a process that can take 15-25 years.
Taxpayer-funded attorneys for both trials and appeals are provided to defendants who cannot afford to hire legal counsel. Like other prisoners, death row inmates are usually required to work and up to 50 percent of their earnings may be taken to pay to their victims’ families.
Since 1978, when California enacted the death penalty, there have been 930 death sentences. Fifteen of those sentenced to death have been executed, 103 died in prison, 64 received reduced sentences and today 748 people are on death row in California. No executions have taken place since 2006 because the state’s lethal-injection protocols are currently under legal review.
If Prop 62 passes, the state would save approximately $150 million annually as a result of shorter trials, fewer appeals, and the elimination of separate death row facilities.
A YES vote on Prop 62 means you want to end the death penalty in California and that you want the most serious penalty available to be a prison term of life without the possibility of parole.
A YES vote also means you want offenders who are currently under a sentence of death to be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Finally a YES vote on Prop 62 means you want all inmates serving life sentences without possibility of parole to work with up to 60 percent of their earnings paid to their victims’ families.
A NO vote on Prop 62 means you do not want these changes made to the death penalty laws.
As of Sept. 16, $4.8 million was donated to support Prop 62 and $4 million was donated to oppose it. Donations to support Prop 62 are from Nicholas McKeown, Reed Hastings, Laurene Powell Jobs, Paul Graham and Robert Eustace. Money in opposition is from California Correctional Peace Officers Association Truth in American Government Fund, Peace Officers Research Association of California, California Association of Highway Patrolmen, Los Angeles Police Protective League and Henry Nicholas.
People who support Prop 62 say that in over 30 years California has sentenced 930 people to death but performed only 13 executions and Prop 62 will save taxpayers $150 million a year.
People who oppose Prop 62 say death row inmates are the worst of criminals and deserve the death penalty. They also say the death penalty should not be ended, but amended to fix the problems.
The other death penalty ballot measure, Proposition 66, asks voters if the time it takes for legal challenges to death penalty sentences should be significantly shortened.
A YES vote for Prop 66 means you want to require that appeals be completed in no more than 5 years, as compared to the 15-25 years it can take today. A YES vote also means you think all inmates sentenced to life without parole should be required to work and that a maximum of 70 percent of their earnings could be paid to their victims. (Today the limit is 50 percent and Prop 62 proposes a 60 percent maximum). Finally, a YES vote for Prop 66 means you want execution methods to be exempted from public oversight.
If Prop 66 passed, court costs could increase initially by tens of millions of dollars annually to pay for expediting the processing of the hundreds of pending appeals within the five-year time frame. Over time, the annual savings could be in the tens of millions of dollars due to the shorter appeal process timeframe.
As of Sept. 16, $4 million was donated to support Prop 66 and $5.3 million to oppose it. Donations to support Prop 66 are from California Correctional Peace Officers, Peace Officers Research Association of California, California Association of Highway Patrolmen, Los Angeles Police Protective League and Henry Nicholas. Money in opposition is from Nicholas McKeown, Reed Hastings, Laurene Powell Jobs, Paul Graham and Robert Eustace.