"Californians may vote on death penalty in November," is the Sacramento Bee report by Sam Stanton.
The SAFE California Campaign said it has collected about 800,000 signatures to get a measure on the November ballot to transfer the sentences of death-penalty inmates to life without the possibility of parole.
The campaign, whose name stands for "Savings, Accountability, Full Enforcement," needed to turn in slightly more than 504,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office. If approved for the ballot, the measure would mark the first time since Californians approved the death penalty in 1978 that state voters have an opportunity to weigh in on the practice.
Only one other state – Oregon – has set aside capital punishment by a vote of the people, though it was reinstated in 1978. Sixteen other states have done away with it through legislation or the courts.
California's situation is different from most states' because of the sheer size of its death row – 725 inmates and counting – and the cost of maintaining it.
Advocates for abolishing the state's death penalty – a coalition of the American Civil Liberties Union, lawyers, crime victims and law enforcement officials – will argue it's a pocketbook issue: They estimate that the death penalty costs the state $137 million a year because of the time-consuming court appeals that ensue and requirements for maintaining prisoners on death row.
Given the lengthy appeals process, only 13 men have been executed since capital punishment was restored in California. The average time they spent on death row before execution was 17.5 years, state prison officials say.
"Bid to end death penalty headed to the ballot," by Bob Egelko for the San Francisco Chronicle.
For the third time in 40 years, Californians will likely vote in November on the death penalty, a practice that has had at least as much impact on the state's politics as on its institutions of crime and punishment.
Opponents of capital punishment said Thursday they were submitting 800,000 signatures on petitions for an initiative to close the nation's largest Death Row, which has 725 condemned prisoners. The measure needs 504,760 valid signatures to make the ballot.
"California voters are ready to replace the death penalty with life in prison with no chance of parole," declared Jeanne Woodford, who oversaw four executions as warden of San Quentin State Prison. She now heads the anti-capital-punishment group Death Penalty Focus.
It was an unusually optimistic statement in a state whose residents have consistently supported the death penalty. The most recent Field Poll, in September, showed 68 percent support - although respondents in the same survey, when asked their preferred sentence for murder, backed life without parole over death, 48 to 40 percent.
"End death penalty measure likely to be on November ballot," by Howard Mintz for the Silicon Vallery Mercury News.
The SAFE California Act would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. If approved, the law would convert the death sentences of the state's 725 death row inmates to life in prison terms and eliminate the death penalty option in murder cases.
Californians historically have strongly supported the death penalty, famously ousting former Chief Justice Rose Bird and two Supreme Court colleagues in 1986 for refusing to uphold death sentences.
But at the same time, the state's death penalty system has been marred by epic delays of 20 years or more in legal appeals. Just 13 inmates have been executed since the restoration of capital punishment in 1978, prompting even some leading death penalty supporters to question its benefits.
California has not executed an inmate in six years, the result of ongoing legal challenges to the state's lethal injection method that are expected to extend a moratorium on the use of the death chamber for at least another year.
"Death penalty opponents move closer to November ballot initiative," by Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times. It's via the Bellingham Herald.
"Our focus in times of fiscal crisis should be crystal clear. The death penalty wastes $184 million a year over life without parole," said Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles County district attorney whose support for the death penalty has been eroded by the soaring costs of maintaining a punishment seldom meted out.
But those who support capital punishment say the opponents' cost-savings figures are inflated. The number of new death sentences fell dramatically last year and for the last decade have been well below the rate of the 1990s, said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
Audio of the complete press conference is available at, "California death penalty ban headed towards November ballot," by Rina Palta for KALW-FM.
This morning at San Francisco’s City Hall, members of the SAFE California Coalition submitted signatures to the Department of Elections to put an initiative on the November ballot that would end the death penalty in California. Proponents say they gathered over 800,000 signatures, which will now be reviewed by elections officials before they’re able to send the proposal to voters. If passed, the initiative would replace capital punishment with life without the possibility of parole.
SAFE California’s message is three-pronged. The group says California’s death penalty is expensive, prone to error, and ineffective–both in that it hasn’t been carried out in years because of constitutional lawsuits, and because, they say, it doesn’t make California safer.
Southern California Public Radio posts, "Death penalty to get up or down vote from California voters," by Corey Moore of KPCC-FM. There is audio at the link.
Come November, California voters can decide whether lawmakers should switch out the state’s death penalty for life in prison without parole. Supporters of the SAFE California Act have gathered more than the 500,000 signatures they need to place the measure on the ballot — almost 300,000 more.
“799,589 signatures," said L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti after checking his text messages for the latest petition update. "That’s incredible. That is incredible.”
More on the measure is at SAFE California.
Earlier coverage from California begins at the link.