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Battle Over Prop. 34 Death Penalty Ban Heats Up

While latest ad from 34's backers focuses on wrongful convictions, opponents spotlight former 49ers cornerback Kermit Alexander, whose family was gunned down in 1984 by a man who remains on Death Row.

With less than two weeks to go before the Nov. 6 election, the battle over Proposition 34, the proposed ban of the death penalty in California, appears to be tightening, and its proponents are raising the stakes.

Yes on Prop. 34, the campaign to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole, create a $100 million fund to investigate rape and murder cases and require inmates to work and pay restitution to victims or their families, launched a $2 million radio and TV ad campaign this week.

In doing so, Prop. 34 backers hope to make the case that capital punishment in California is a waste of taxpayer money, citing the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimate that the state could save as much as $130 million a year if the death penalty is abolished. No inmate has been executed since early 2006, when a federal judge ordered a moratorium because of questions about lethal injection protocol. That moratorium remains in place, and Prop. 34 proponents also cite a former appeals court judge's 2011 study that found that since 1978 capital punishment has cost California about $4 billion.

All male Death Row inmates in California are housed at Marin's San Quentin State Prison, where executions were carried out until the moratorium.

A new prop-34 TV ad in major California media markets also argues that the death penalty often prevents the wrongfully convicted from seeking justice.

"Yes on 34 went on the air to communicate with the greatest number of voters to make sure they know that if we use life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of the death penalty, we will insure no innocent person will be executed, we can make murderers work in prison, and we can use its law enforcement dollars more efficiently to put more murders behind bars where they belong," wrote Natasha Minsker, the Yes on 34 campaign manager, in an email.

As both sides reach out to those undeciced voters, Prop. 34's proponents have considerably more resources to wield. The campaign has raised nearly $7 million as of Oct. 16, much of which has come from Hyatt Development Corp. billionaire Nicholas Pritzker, the Atlantic Advocacy Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, according to MapLight's VotersEdge campaign finance tool.

Prop. 34 opponents, meanwhile, have raised just $342,000 to date, nearly all of which has come from the Peace Officers Research Association of California.

Despite its vast fundraising lead, the Yes on Prop. 34 campaign has faced an uphill battle in swaying public opinion about the death penalty, but recent polls have indicated the race is tightening.

While a Sept. 30 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found voters against Prop. 34 51 percent to 38 percent, an Oct. 11 poll conducted by the California Business Roundtable/Pepperdine University showed that margin narrowing to 48 percent to 43 percent.

Where do you stand on Prop. 34? Tell us in the Comments.

Jack October 24, 2012 at 02:07 PM
OK. Let's stop killing people. Please. Thank you.
Chris Bernstien October 25, 2012 at 05:53 AM
Prop. 34 is NOT the answer. The arguments in support of Pro. 34, the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty, are exaggerated at best and, in most cases, misleading and false. No “savings.” Alleged savings ignore increased life-time medical costs for aging inmates and require decreased security levels and housing 2-3 inmates per cell rather than one. Rather than spending 23 hours/day in their cell, inmates will be required to work. These changes will lead to increased violence for other inmates and guards and prove unworkable for these killers. Also, without the death penalty, the lack of incentive to plead the case to avoid the death penalty will lead to more trial and related costs and appeals. No “accountability.” Max earnings for any inmate would amount to $383/year (assuming 100% of earnings went to victims), divided by number of qualifying victims. Hardly accounts for murdering a loved one.
Chris Bernstien October 25, 2012 at 05:53 AM
No “full enforcement” as 729 inmates do not receive penalty given them by jurors. Also, for the 34,000 inmates serving life sentences, there will be NO increased penalty for killing a guard or another inmate. They’re already serving a life sentence. Efforts are also being made to get rid of life sentences. (Human Rights Watch, Old Behind Bars, 2012.) This would lead to possible paroles for not only the 729 on death row, but the 34,000 others serving life sentences. On 9/30/12, Brown passed the first step, signing a bill to allow 309 inmates with life sentences for murder to be paroled after serving 25 years. Life without parole is meaningless. Remember Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan who were sentenced to death and now up for parole every few years. Convicted killers get out and kill again, such as Darryl Thomas Kemp, Kenneth Allen McDuff, and Bennie Demps. Arguments of innocence bogus. Can’t identify one innocent person executed in CA. Can’t identify one person on CA’s death row who has exhausted his appeals and has a plausible claim of innocence. See http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com/
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr October 25, 2012 at 08:09 AM
In some other states, innocent people have been convicted of murder and executed, not in California in the past 40 years. It is the activist judges in California who have cost millions or billions of dollars related to the death penalty. If the 729 murderers on death row had been executed, as adjudged, those m/billions of dollars would not have been wasted. These give-'em-another-chance leftist judges have placed illegal court obstacles to thwart the repeated will of the California citizens, who have repeatedly confirmed the need for the death penalty. "Three drugs might cause pain during the execution." One drug which conclusively causes no pain has been rejected by these same judges. They seek to impose their political correctness over the will of the people. Maybe if these judges were executed they could give us an objective view about whether executions are inhumane. If you just keep pumping morphine into a person they will eventually die in a state of chemical bliss. BTW, under Rose Bird "life without the possibility of parole", was actually parole after 7 years. This proposition makes a murderer sentenced to life without parole eligible for parole in 25 years, and the "activist" judges will get that back to 7 years.
Open Mind November 06, 2012 at 12:00 AM
YES on 34. - it's not worth risking killing an innocent person (this is the one that matters most to me) - it costs way more than life in prison - it's been proven that the death penalty is not a deterrent anyway.

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