California votes to speed up executions

While state lawmakers complete approval of a one-drug execution method, Californians voted not only to keep the death penalty on the books, but approved speeding up executions by limiting the appeals process.

Californians rejected Proposition 62, which would have repealed the death penalty for persons found guilty of murder with special circumstances and replaced it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The law would have been applied retroactively to the more than 700 men currently on San Quentin’s Death Row and the 21 females confined at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.

The rejected law would have also put those persons to work and take 20 to 60 percent of their wages for victim restitution fines or liens against them.

Californians approved Proposition 66, which changes the state court appeals process for challenging death penalty convictions and sentences. The new law imposes time limits on state court death penalty review. The law also widens the availability of appeals lawyers to those who do noncapital appeals.

Other approved changes are that prison officials are exempt from regulations for developing execution methods; authorizes death row inmate transfers among California state prisons; and mandates that death row inmates must work and pay victim restitution.

The initiative results were a far cry from what San Quentin’s general and Death Row population populations voted for in a mock election held last October.

Of the 504 ballots cast, 384 general population inmates wanted to end the death penalty, while only 52 wanted to keep it. And, of the 107 Death Row inmates, 60 wanted to end the death penalty while 43 wanted to keep it.

As far as speeding up the death penalty, 72 general population inmates wanted to speed it up, while 277 didn’t want to. And, on Death Row, 31 wanted to speed it up, while 64 didn’t.

–Juan Haines

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