What is the appropriate punishment for murder in the United States? For the citizens of some states, including California, the answer to that question is the death penalty. An eye for an eye, at least in the biblical sense. The death penalty question has been hotly contested in the United States for time immemorial, but in other western countries (for the most part) it is no longer a question—it’s been abolished. In fact, in Europe the death penalty for peacetime crimes has been done away with in every country except Belarus as of 2017.
Yet for a number of reasons, the death penalty remains intact in the U.S. More than half of the country still has the death penalty. As of 2016, the death penalty is legal in 32 states and illegal in 18 states (and DC). To be sure, the ethics and morality of taking a life for a crime could be covered at length. However, as long as the citizens of California deem it necessary, the conversation should pivot towards the manner in which the process is carried out. Whether that is the method, or as we have seen of late, the amount of time a person remains on death row after conviction.
Californians voted on a number of items last November, arguably the most important being the President. But going to the polls is about much more than electing leaders. Equally paramount are the laws that are passed. In addition to voting in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult consumption (Prop. 64), Californians voted on ending or amending the death penalty. Voters chose to amend in favor of Proposition 66. Essentially, Prop. 66:
- Kept capital punishment in place.
- Changes the death penalty procedures to speed up the appeals process by putting trial courts in charge of initial petitions challenging death penalty convictions, establishing a time frame for death penalty review, and requiring appointed attorneys to work on death penalty cases.
- Stipulates that all effects would occur once Proposition 66 is enacted and authorizes death row inmate transfers among California prisons.
- Would require prisoners on death row to work while in prison and pay restitution to victims’ families. The portion of wages to be provided as restitution would be 70 percent or the restitution fine, whichever is less.
- Stipulates that other death penalty measures approved would be void in the event that more affirmative votes are given for Proposition 66.
- Remove public review requirements for the state’s lethal injection procedures.
A Court Divided
Following the law’s passing, an opponent sued to block the measure arguing that Prop. 66 usurped the power of the judicial branch to run the courts, The Los Angeles Times reports. A number of the California Supreme Court Justices believe that the law’s five-year deadlines for resolving death penalty appeals could not be met. Proponents of the bill responded saying that the 5-year limit was a target, not a mandate. To which “So it is a mandatory deadline that is toothless?” asked Justice Leondra Kruger asked:
“So it is a mandatory deadline that is toothless?”
If you are confused about what Prop. 66 is trying to accomplish, you are not alone. But, it seems that the law’s proponents are looking to address the death row backlog, according to the article. It has been 11-years since the last execution and California has more than 750 condemned inmates. A decision is due within the next 90 days.
The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower has decades of experience in homicide defense. We can help you or a loved one with quality representation.