Today's Los Angeles Times reports, "Support for end to California death penalty surges." It's written by Maura Dolan and Jack Leonard. There are graphs at the link.
Voter support for a ballot measure to repeal California's death penalty has jumped dramatically, though not enough to ensure its passage, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll has found.
Support for a separate measure that would ease the state's three-strikes sentencing law remained high, with more than 60% in favor of amending it.
The survey, conducted last week, showed that the gap between supporters and opponents of Proposition 34, the capital punishment measure, is now very small — only 3 percentage points — compared with last month. Still, less than half of respondents said they would vote for the measure, which would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Forty-two percent said they would vote for Proposition 34, with 45% saying no. In September, the gap was 38% to 51%, a 13-point difference. A significant 12% of respondents said they did not know how they would vote, nearly identical to the 11% who had not decided last month.
"There is no question there has been a sharp shift," said Dan Schnur, who heads the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. The results suggest that passage is "not impossible" but still "very difficult," Schnur said.
When voters heard more information about Proposition 34, such as its financial ramifications and details of the effect on prisoners, responses flipped: 45% were in favor and 42% against — still very close to the survey's margin of error, which is 2.9 percentage points.
The latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll questioned 1,504 registered voters by telephone from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21, before the Proposition 34 campaign launched radio and television ads. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, did the survey with American Viewpoint, a Republican company.
The Long Beach Gazette joins a clear majority of California newspapers supporting repeal with the editorial, "Yes On Prop. 34 Vote Common Sense Here.
California’s death penalty doesn’t work and should be repealed.
That’s the premise of Proposition 34 on the Nov. 6 ballot, and we agree.
"Former executioners say it's time to kill the death penalty," is by Jose Gaspar of KBAK/KBFX-TV.
Jerry Givens is no stranger to the death penalty. As former chief executioner for the state of Virginia, Givens executed 62 convicted criminals.
"I carried out 37 executions by lethal injection and 25 by electrocution," said Givens on Wednesday night.
Givens, along with fellow former executioner and warden Ron McAndrew, of Florida, were in Bakersfield as guest speakers advocating for the passage of Proposition 34 on California's November ballot.
Like Givens, McAndrew also carried out executions, but has since come to oppose the death penalty.
"I supported it through ignorance," said McAndrew.
The New Republic reports, "California Voters Get a New Reason to Abolish the Death Penalty," by Maurice Possley, the former award-winning Chicago Tribune journalist, now with the National Registry of Exonerations.
When California voters check off their ballots next month, they’ll have the opportunity to make their state the eighteenth in the nation to abolish the death penalty. So far, proponents of the abolition ballot measure, Proposition 34, have stressed the $130 million the state could save each year by changing the maximum sentence to life without parole as well as the $100 million that would be set aside for law enforcement to work on unsolved crimes.
However, there’s a more direct reason for abolition: More defendants have been wrongfully convicted and exonerated in California than any other state in the nation -- indicating significant risk of putting an innocent person to death.
Until recently, we didn’t know that this was the case. At the National Registry of Exonerations, where I work as an investigator and writer, Illinois originally held the dubious distinction of having the most exonerations, with 111 since 1989. In September, however, California overtook it. The California count now stands at 120 exonerations since 1989.
Meanwhile, today the University of California at Berkeley School of Law and Hollway Advisory Services, a criminal justice research firm, announced the launch of the California Wrongful Convictions Project, an effort dedicated to identifying wrongful convictions in California and assessing their economic impact.
“Wrongfully convicted Californians have spent more than 1,300 years in prison, costing taxpayers more than $129 million for unnecessary incarceration and compensation,” the Project announced in a press release.
NPR Morning Edition has featured two reports on Prop. 34, "Calif. Death Penalty Opposition Focuses On Economy," by Richard Gonzales; and, "In Calif., A Death Penalty Proponent Changes Course." Both links feature audio.
"Prop 34: Ex-San Quentin Prison Warden Jeanne Woodford Backs California Measure to End Death Penalty," is the Democracy Now report, featuring video. A transcript of the interview is also available.
Ron Briggs, an El Dorado County Supervisor, posts, "Why Conservatives Like Bill O’Reilly and Me Support Proposition 34," at the Fox and Hounds blog.
Bill O’Reilly is the newest endorser of Proposition 34, the initiative that will replace the death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole and make inmates work and pay restitution (rather than sit in private cells without doing anything, as they now do).
It might be surprising to some that O’Reilly, a political commentator on Fox News, a national leader among traditional thinkers, supports Prop 34. But a look at California’s death penalty shows why: California’s death penalty is simply a fiscal disaster that coddles criminals, enriches lawyers, and hurts victims.
Much like O’Reilly, I used to support and even champion the death penalty. In 1978, my father, Senator John Briggs, proposed an initiative to expand California’s death penalty and I proudly worked on the campaign. The voters passed the Briggs Death Penalty Initiative by an overwhelming margin. We were sure we were helping victims and we didn’t pause when the Legislative Analyst Office said the fiscal impacts of the initiative were “unknown.” It seemed obvious: the death penalty would cost less than life in prison without parole.
We were wrong.
Today's Guardian's publishes, "California's death penalty ballot: Prop 34 makes economic and ethical sense," by Ken Macdonald and Gil Garcetti.
This year, California's death row will cost taxpayers $184m. What will the state get for that price? The same number of executions as last year, and the year before that, and every year since 2006: zero.
A solution has been offered: the state's worst offenders would die in prison of natural causes, just as they are doing on death row today – only now, taxpayers would save $130m a year. That is Proposition 34, the ballot initiative to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole as the state's maximum sentence for murder.
The economic benefit may not be obvious. After all, many people don't know that the death penalty is far more expensive than life in prison with no chance of parole. Voters are surprised to learn that every death row inmate comes with a lifelong team of lawyers, is housed to one cell and automatically gets extra security, and even extra visiting hours. Most often, death row inmates die of old age. It all adds up to a very large tab for no useful purpose.
The one thing about the death penalty everyone agrees on: the system is broken beyond repair. There is simply no other way to describe spending nearly $1bn over six years in order not to execute a single one of the 726 prisoners currently on death row.
Earlier coverage of Prop. 34, the SAFE California ballot initiative, begins at the link;