Proposition 62: Death Penalty.


The Question: 

Should the death penalty in California be repealed and replaced with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole?

The Situation: 

Currently, people convicted of a first-degree murder charge that includes “special circumstances,” such as multiple victims, hate crimes, or killing for financial gain, can be sentenced either to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole or to death. Two trials are required in order to sentence someone to death: one to establish guilt and one to decide the penalty. Death-penalty convictions are always automatically appealed, and they may also go through a second stage of appeals in higher courts, a process that can take 15–25 years. People who cannot afford counsel are provided taxpayer-funded counsel both for trial and for appeals at taxpayers’ expense.

Like other prisoners, death row inmates are generally required to work, though sometimes they are exempted. A percentage of their earnings may be taken to pay any reparations that they owe to their victims’ families. There are currently 748 people on death row in California. Because the state’s lethal-injection protocols are currently under legal review, no executions have taken place since 2006.

The Proposal: 

Prop. 62 would end the death penalty in California and would retroactively apply to inmates currently on death row. Their sentences would automatically be changed to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Any currently pending appeals not related to the death penalty in these cases would be sent to the lower courts responsible for hearing non-death-penalty appeals.

All inmates sentenced to life without parole would be required to work, and the maximum amount of their earnings that could be used for reparations would be raised from 50 to 60 percent.

Fiscal Effect: 

The Legislative Analyst estimates that Prop. 62 would save the state approximately $150 million annually. These savings would result from shorter trials, fewer appeals, and reduced prison costs based on the elimination of separate death row facilities.

What a YES or NO Vote Means
A YES Vote Means: 

No offenders could be sentenced to death by the state for first degree murder. The most serious penalty available would be a prison term of life without the possibility of parole. Offenders who are currently under a sentence of death would be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

A NO Vote Means: 

Certain offenders convicted for first degree murder could continue to be sentenced to death. There would be no change for offenders currently under a sentence of death.

Support & Opposition
Supporters Say: 
  • Since 1978, California has sentenced 930 people to death but performed only 13 executions, at an average cost of $384 million per execution.                 
  • Abolishing the death penalty will save the state $150 million every year.             
  • Victims’ families will achieve closure with the end of the long process of death penalty trials and appeals.             
  • Abolishing the death penalty removes the risk that innocent people may be executed.
Opponents Say: 
  • The death penalty system is broken, but ending it rewards murderers. The system should be mended, not ended.                     
  • Changing the time-consuming and expensive appeals process is the best way to fix the death penalty and save taxpayers money.                 
  • The people on death row are the worst of criminals and deserve the death penalty.                  
  • Prop. 62 jeopardizes public safety and denies justice and closure to victims’ families.