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Prop 62: Death to the Death Penalty

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Updated at 2:30 pm on Nov. 9, 2016


Prop 62 has failed by a margin of 46.1% yes to 53.9% no. The death penalty will remain an option as part of California’s criminal sentencing laws.

Is there a problem right now with California’s death penalty?

Yes there is.

Activists on both sides of the death penalty debate agree the process in California is broken.  Right now convicts as well as families of victims  wait for years for as the legal system grinds on.  A convict on average spends 18 years on death row before he is executed, and executions almost never happen. The last one was in 2006.  Inmates are more likely to die of natural causes or suicide than to be put to death. On top of that the protracted legal process is expensive. It costs taxpayers about $150 million a year in attorneys’ fees.

Each side takes different approaches to the problem. One wants to reform the process. They have proposed Prop 66.  The other side wants to abolish the death penalty. They have proposed 62.

What would Prop 62 do?

Prop 62 would repeal the death penalty in California.

  • Convicts who are currently on death row would have their sentences changed to life in prison without parole.
  • Inmates would have to work while in prison and a larger portion of their wages would go to victim restitution.

Who is for Prop 62 and what are their arguments?

Supporters include long-time death penalty opponent and actor, Mike Farrell as well as actor Edward James Olmos, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.  Organizations in favor of Prop 62 include the ACLU, state employee unions, innocence projects and some families of murder victims.  

They say we should pass Prop 62 because:

  • It would save taxpayers millions of dollars by getting rid of California’s costly and inefficient death penalty process.  A death sentence costs 18 times more than a life sentence. Taxpayers have spent $5 billion dollars since 1978 to carry out only 13 executions. 
  • Inmates on death row would still have to spend the rest of their lives in prison and a greater portion of the wages they earn would go toward victim restitution.
  • It would provide victim’s families with closure instead of waiting for years for executions that never happen.
  • It would eliminate the chance that an innocent person is executed. In California 66 innocent people have had their murder convictions overturned.
  • Murder trials are biased against minorities and Latinos are disproportionately represented on death row
  • Botched executions make the process inhumane.

Who is against Prop 62 and what are their arguments?

Many law enforcement groups and district attorneys associations are against Prop 62 along with LA Sheriff Jim McDonnell, former governor Pete Wilson and some families of murder victims.

They say:

  • It lets the worst of the worst criminals stay alive at taxpayers’ expense long after their victims have lost their lives.
  • People who get the death penalty are guilty of first degree murder with special circumstances. They are serial murders, or they have tortured their victims, or killed children or police officers.  They should be punished more than other murderers.
  • Prop 62 will cost taxpayers money because inmates must be kept in prison at a cost of about $47,000 a year for the rest of their lives.
  • The answer to our broken capital punishment process is to reform it, not repeal it as we propose in Prop 66.

What does a “yes” vote on Prop 62 mean?

A “yes” vote means you want to abolish California’s death penalty. Those already on death row would get life in prison without parole.

What does a “no” vote mean?

A “no” vote means you want to keep the death penalty as part of California’s criminal sentencing laws.

There’s another ballot measure, Prop 66, dealing with the death penalty on the ballot. How do these two props effect each other?

If one proposition passes and the other fails, then obviously the winning proposition becomes law.

If they both fail, things stay the way they are now.

If they both pass, then the proposition that received the most votes becomes law.

Click here for a cheat sheet on all the California ballot propositions.

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