Anti-death penalty measure headed for ballot

March 1, 2012 7:20:35 PM PST
Opponents of the death penalty in California say they're sure they've done what's needed to put the issue before voters in November.

Those who want to repeal the death penalty have turned in some 800,000 signatures to elections departments across the state, which they say is more than enough to qualify the anti-death penalty measure for the ballot.

The initiative would take inmates off death row at San Quentin and give them a punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole. It would be the first statewide vote of its kind.

"As the warden carrying out four executions, I know how broken the death penalty system is," said former San Quentin warden Jeanne Woodford. Now she's a leader of the campaign trying to do away with the death penalty.

The latest strategy by supporters of the ballot initiative is not a moral argument but a financial one. They say it costs $184 million more per year to keep prisoners on death row than life without parole.

Victims advocate Marc Klaas is opposed to the measure. His 12-year-old daughter Polly was murdered in 1993. Her killer, Richard Allen Davis, confessed and is on death row.

"I want the guy that murdered my daughter to be executed and I suspect the majority of Californians would like to see the guy that murdered my daughter executed, as they would so many other of these monsters and goons and creeps that exist on death row," Klaas said.

The most recent field poll taken last fall indicates that 68 percent of California voters favor keeping the death penalty, while 27 percent support doing away with it. Five percent have no opinion.

Deldelp Medina's aunt was murdered by her own son. Medina believes many crime victims feel the way she does -- that the death penalty is not the answer.

"Retribution has existed as long as humanity has been around and I understand that desire and that feeling. But that does not give us justice," she said.

Obie Anthony worries about a miscarriage of justice. He was exonerated after spending 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

"I'm a living example that the system is not perfect, and that it makes mistakes," Anthony said.

If passed, the measure will apply retroactively to the 720 inmates currently on death row.


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