On November 8, every Californian who steps into a voting booth will face a momentous decision --- life or death?
It is an awesome responsibility that cannot be avoided. To fail to cast a vote on one of the two competing death penalty ballot measures is to passively accept a California death penalty system that U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney aptly described as so "dysfunctional" and "irrational" in its application that it "serves no penological purpose" whatsoever.
Of the more than 900 human beings who have received death sentences in the Golden State since 1978, only thirteen (13) have been executed. During that time, California's death penalty system has operated at a cost of $5 billion or $384 million per execution. At present 748 men and women remain on death row, waiting to die.
The first of the two ballot measures, Prop 62, is backed by a wide array of political, educational, religious and civil liberties organizations. It is also supported by well-known politicians like California's Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newson and former President Jimmy Carter. The measure is simple, direct and straightforward. A "yes" vote "repeals the death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole." Prop 62 would apply "retroactively to existing death sentences," and it would increase "the portion of a life inmate's wages that may be applied to victim restitution."
The second competing measure, Prop 66, the "Death Penalty Procedure Regulation" initiative, has been offered primarily by the same District Attorneys and law enforcement personnel who are currently responsible for the enforcement of the existing dysfunctional death penalty system. The object of Prop 66, they tell us, is to "mend not end" the death penalty system by severely curtailing the rights of the condemned both with respect the timing of direct appeals and subsequent collateral challenges by way of what are known as petitions for habeas corpus.
Where the death penalty repeal measure (Prop 62) can be readily understood by the average voter, the procedural changes reflected by Prop 66's wonky text are such that only those attorneys and judges who are actively engaged in death penalty appellate litigation can be expected to fully comprehend their true significance.
Prosecutors glibly assure voters that Prop 66 is a safe means to speed up the appeal process. Former DC public defender Stephen Cooper, on the other hand, describes Prop 66 as a "dubious," "arbitrary" and "macabre" proposal to turbo-charge "California's 'machinery of death'" --- a measure whose "cataclysmically-bad provisions" increase the ability of overzealous prosecutors to literally bury their mistakes...