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April 23, 2012

Any early predictions (or wagers) on likely outcome of California's DP-repeal ballot measure?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this Reuters piece reporting on an official development in the initiative campaign to enable Californians to vote on repealing the state's death penalty.  Here are the basics:

California voters will decide in November whether to repeal the state's death penalty after activists collected the more than half a million signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, the Secretary of State's office said on Monday.

The ballot initiative, which focuses on the high cost of the death penalty, would abolish capital punishment as the maximum sentence in murder convictions and replace it with life imprisonment.

The move was estimated to save the state money in the "high tens of millions of dollars annually," according to an estimate of the fiscal impact of the bill that is included in the text of the measure.

The 723 current inmates already on California's death row would have their sentences commuted. The state has carried out only 13 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976....

The ballot measure was approved as a growing number of states question the use of the death penalty, and comes less than two weeks after Connecticut lawmakers voted to repeal the death penalty there.... Illinois, New Mexico and New Jersey all voted to abolish the death penalty in recent years, and New York's death penalty law was declared unconstitutional in 2004. Other state legislatures are considering bills to end the death penalty, and Oregon's governor has said he would halt all executions on his watch.

In addition to abolishing the death penalty, the California measure would also create a $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases. It would also require convicted murderers to work in prison, and would apply their wages to any victim restitution fines or orders against them.

April 23, 2012 at 10:10 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Having fun, Doc?

Posted by: anon | Apr 24, 2012 8:22:11 AM

The Left couldn't even get pot legalized in a referendum, and pot legalization enjoys vastly more support than abolitionism.

Have at it, guys.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 24, 2012 9:07:01 AM

The state already has medicinal pot and that causes a lot more action than the handful of people actually executed in that state the last few decades (albeit a bit more than CT), so not quite the same thing. But, just that would probably lead many to vote against an overhaul. The net result tends to be arbitrary application, but people generally have lived with it this long, after all.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 24, 2012 10:46:29 AM

As with virtually every other ballot measure in California, it will most likely be decided by which side spends the most money on advertising.

Posted by: pourquoi | Apr 24, 2012 12:36:49 PM

Bill...

I told ya ta be careful hangin' out there in Califoreignia.

Are you inta drugs now, too, like the professor?

Posted by: Al Ammo | Apr 24, 2012 2:57:01 PM

From the article: "It would also require convicted murderers to work in prison, and would apply their wages to any victim restitution fines or orders against them."

Why should any of that have to depend on abolition of the DP? If it's a good idea, it should be done right now, regardless of what becomes of the DP.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 24, 2012 3:42:42 PM

Bill notes part of the proposed measure does not require another part to work.

Duly noted, but it is not exactly uncommon that measures include various things that can be voted upon separately.

Likewise, the measure could be more successful if the person is in prison longer instead of in the grave.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 24, 2012 3:54:38 PM

Joe --

If California abolitionists thought they could win a clean up-or-down vote on the DP, that's the way they would have written their referendum. The appealing add-on's are there only because they know they would NOT win a clean up-or-down vote.

All the retentionists need to do to win is ask this one question: "If and when the next Timothy McVeigh shows up in California, do you want to tell his jury that they cannot ever, under any circumstances, impose the death penalty?"

Since the question answers itself, this referendum is toast.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 24, 2012 5:41:28 PM

And does California have a single issue requirement? I could well see whether people in prisons are working toward victim restitution as falling under a different subject matter than whether murderers are executed.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 25, 2012 10:21:36 AM

"And does California have a single issue requirement?"

Article II, ยง8(d)

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Apr 25, 2012 1:49:11 PM

The next Timothy McVeigh to potentially show up in California could be handled in the Federal Courts, just like the last one.

Posted by: chris | Apr 25, 2012 2:54:24 PM

Single issue requirement is not much of a burden. This amendment would suffice.

As far as "up or down" votes, why wouldn't abolitionists create an incentive by adding victims' rights provisions? And how is that duplicitous in any way? Conservative initiatives are far more duplicitous in general. For example, the use of weasel language to ban civil unions along with same-sex marriage (too many states to count here), the use of "victims' rights" amendments to make changes to the state's evidence code, etcetera. At least the abolitionists are up front about what their language would do, which is more than can be said about the opposition.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 25, 2012 3:40:25 PM

chris --

"The next Timothy McVeigh to potentially show up in California could be handled in the Federal Courts, just like the last one."

Then perforce you favor retaining the DP is some form. Good.

Of course I could just as easily have said, "All the retentionists need to do to win is ask this one question: 'If and when the next John Wayne Gacy shows up in California, do you want to tell his jury that they cannot ever, under any circumstances, impose the death penalty?"

Like the huge majority of death penalty cases, Gacy was a state matter.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 25, 2012 4:26:13 PM

"Then perforce you favor retaining the DP is some form. Good."

Not necessarily. I merely responded in the context of your own comment and pointed out the difference in McVeigh as a federal case and another in State courts - implying that such a distinction could be relevant. Regardless of my own opinions (as it is easy to be categorized, especially on this forum, for being a retentionist or abolitionist and therefore summarily dismissed), some may find persuasive the fact that States do a poor job of implementing the DP and could therefore be more trusting of the Federal system carrying it out (more money, arguably better trained individuals - agents, lawyers, judges, etc.). Specifically, McVeigh brings up memories much like 9/11 to some and should be rightfully distinguished from the majority of crimes subject to the DP in state courts.

"Of course I could just as easily have said, "All the retentionists need to do to win is ask this one question: 'If and when the next John Wayne Gacy shows up in California, do you want to tell his jury that they cannot ever, under any circumstances, impose the death penalty?'"

Indeed you could have; yet you did not.

Posted by: chris | Apr 26, 2012 10:25:06 AM

chris --

OK, fine. I don't get the point of the bobbing and weaving, but if you insist: All the retentionists need to do to win is ask this one question: "If and when the next John Wayne Gacy shows up in California, do you want to tell his jury that they cannot ever, under any circumstances, impose the death penalty?"

And in other news: Did you support or oppose McVeigh's execution? Did you support or oppose Gacy's?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 26, 2012 6:56:50 PM

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