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L.A. Judge Says No to Executions; Study Shows Death Penalty Will Cost State Billions

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Two major developments relating to Prop 34 on Monday. First, a judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court denied the county's request to move forward with the executions of two Death Row inmates.

California is currently locked in litigation over its method of execution, a three-drug lethal injection process that a court has ruled constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Earlier this year the district attorney's office asked a judge to set an execution date for two inmates at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, anyway. But as KPCC reported, L.A. County Judge Larry Fidler said...

...that as a criminal trial judge, he lacked the authority to override a civil court order in Marin County or the California State Legislature's direction that a long administrative process is necessary to vet any lethal injection method.

At the same time, a new study released Monday concluded that under the state's current criminal justice system it would cost taxpayers between $5 billion and $7 billion more to execute a prisoner than it would to carry out a sentence of Life Without Parole.

Judge Arthur L. Alarcón and Paula M. Mitchell, the authors of the study, reported that by 2050...

"...roughly 740 more inmates will be added to death row, an additional fourteen executions will be carried out, and more than five hundred death-row inmates will die of old age or other causes before the state executes them."

Proponents of Prop 34, the November ballot measure that would end the death penalty in California, were quick to issue a statement on both developments.

"Today's ruling shows, once again, that California's death penalty is broken beyond repair," said Jeanne Woodford in the statement from SAFE California. Woodford is the former director of the California Department of Corrections and the past Warden of San Quentin. She is the official proponent of Prop 34.

"California voters have an historic opportunity this November to prevent the waste of that $5-7 billion, and to use the money to catch more murderers and rapists instead, in order to keep our families and communities safe," Woodford said.

Californians have historically supported the death penalty, and while some recent polls have suggested the tide is turning, others have shown, possibly because of the recent high-profile shootings at a Sikh temple and at a Colorado movie theater, the public may not be ready to get rid of it.

Either way, you can get more information on exactly what Prop 34 would do and who's funneling money to support or oppose it by checking out our cheat sheet.

Photo: A view of San Quentin State Prison in May 2009. L.A. County asked a judge to move forward with the executions of two of the prison's Death Row inmates, but their request was denied. | Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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