Death Penalty

Does Prop 34, the Death Penalty Initiative, Have a Chance of Passing?


According to the latest CA initiative poll, 42.9% are in favor of Prop 34 abolishing the death penalty, while 48.1% surveyed are against it. (By the way, Prop 36, the three-strikes reform initiative, currently has 72% support, with 17.1% opposition.)


The Prop 34 campaign launched TV and radio ads Monday in a final push to sway undecided Californians before voting begins two weeks from now. Narrators for the ads include Franky Carillo, who was convicted of murder at sixteen and was exonerated by DNA evidence 20 years later, and Don Heller, the remorseful author of CA’s death penalty law who says he did not foresee the cost of implementing it.

The LA Times’ Maura Dolan has the story. Here’s a clip:

The ads emphasize how few inmates are executed — 13 since 1978 — and suggest the money would be better used for schools and crime fighting. California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has said the state could save as much as $130 million a year if the death penalty is abolished.

“Death row inmates get special legal teams that work for them, but they don’t work or pay 1 cent to the victim’s families, like other inmates do,” Olmos says. “They just sit in private cells, watching TV.”

The campaign’s television ad focuses on Francisco “Franky” Carrillo, who served 20 years in prison for a murder he said he did not commit. A judge overturned his conviction and released him last year.

“It took 20 years to prove he was innocent,” Olmos said, in English and Spanish ads. “With the death penalty, we always risk executing an innocent person.”


Franky Carillo, in an Op-Ed for the Huffington Post, talks about the ad campaign, his story, and why he believes voting yes on Prop 34 is so important. Here’s a clip:


It’s hard to imagine it being taken away without just cause. But it happens — more often than you might think.

When I was just 16 years old, I was stripped of my freedom, wrongfully convicted of a murder I did not commit. I spent twenty years behind bars before I was finally able to prove my innocence.

But I always wonder, if I had been sentenced to death, would I have been able to prove my innocence in time?

This is why I believe so strongly in Proposition 34, which will replace California’s death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole. With the election just two weeks away, it’s a critical time to make sure California voters hear about the true costs of the death penalty.


Voting Yes on Proposition 34 makes sense for California. We can save $130 million every single year by replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. This money can be better spent on education and on tools that actually improve safety in our communities, like testing DNA evidence and investigating unsolved murders. We can also make sure that California never makes an irreversible mistake.


CA Correctional Peace Officers Association—CCPOA—an organization that has given millions of dollars in the past to defeat similar initiatives, has not so much as given an opinion on Prop 34 and 36 (three-strikes initiative).

Sacramento Bee’s Jon Ortiz has the story. Here’s a clip:

In a bygone era, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association would have unleashed a campaign carpet-bombing on a Nov. 6 ballot initiative that repeals the state’s death penalty and another that softens the “three-strikes” sentencing law that has become the union’s legacy.

But this year CCPOA has spent relatively little on politics. It hasn’t even taken a stand on the three-strikes measure, Proposition 36.

“We’ve taken some different positions than we’ve taken in the past,” said union spokesman JeVaughn Baker. “It’s not like the old days, when CCPOA championed every bill that was tough on crime.”

The union’s lower-profile political posture was shaped by a federal court mandate to shrink California’s prison population, and reinforced by CCPOA’s strained finances. With the prison population on the decline, the union’s long-standing strategy of advocating stiffer sentences and more prisons – stances that resulted in more jobs for correctional officers – has been upended.

Moreover, the state’s political climate has cooled to the lock-’em-up politics that fueled a prison-building boom in the 1980s and 1990s, swelled CCPOA’s ranks and gave it leverage to push on a range of issues, from higher pay to tougher sentencing laws.


This Thursday at 11:00a.m., the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) will be hosting a live online discussion on the death penalty with what looks to be a very interesting panel:

Join us for a fascinating discussion addressing the question, “does the death penalty actually keep us safer?” with Charles Ogletree, Harvard University and founder of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Ron McAndrew, former warden of Florida State Prison who conducted that state’s final electrocutions, Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person exonerated from death row using DNA evidence, and Jerry Givens, former corrections officer from Virginia who put 62 men to death during his 17 years as an executioner.

San Jose Mercury’s Howard Mintz will also host a live discussion this Thursday, Oct 25th at noon to discuss Prop 34. Jeanne Woodford, former San Quentin warden and CDCR director (now the Prop 34 campaign co-chair), will square off with former Sacramento U.S. attorney and No on 34 co-chair.

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