Kathleen Miles is the executive editor of Noema Magazine. She can be reached on Twitter at @mileskathleen.
Voter support for a ballot measure to repeal California’s death penalty has increased dramatically, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.
Opponents of Proposition 34, which would repeal the state’s death penalty, went from having a 13-point lead to only a three-point lead.
In this latest poll, forty-two percent of Californians said they would vote for Proposition 34, while only slightly more—forty-five percent—said no. In September, thirty-percent of Californians said they would vote for Proposition, while many more—fifty-one percent—said no.
Still, the growing support for repealing the death penalty might not be enough to pass the measure, which would sentence those already on death row (724 people) to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Part of the reason for the growing support is an understanding of the inaccurate belief that many previously held that the death penalty was less expensive than life in jail without parole, according to ABC.
But in fact, Prop 34 is expected to save the state about $130 million annually because death row sentencing appeals would cease. With the money saved, Prop 34 would give $100 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies for homicide and rape cases.
And it’s this fiscal argument for repealing the death penalty that has attracted unlikely supporters, including Fox News conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly, Fox & Hounds reports. In general, liberals support repealing the death penalty, and conservatives oppose it. But Ron Briggs, El Dorado County Supervisor, explained O’Reilly’s position and why Briggs himself, who previously campaigned to strengthen the death penalty, have joined the “Yes on Prop 34” camp.
“California’s death penalty is simply a fiscal disaster that coddles criminals, enriches lawyers, and hurts victims,” Briggs wrote.
The “Yes on Prop 34” campaign also has the Catholic Church on its side. However, aside from its official endorsement, the Church hasn’t given the kind of money or sermons that it did in 2008 in support of Prop 8, which stated that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid, New American Media reports.
Ironically, California’s death row inmates do not support Prop 34 because it would eliminate the funding for laywers and investigators who could prove their innocence, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Opponents of Prop 34 say that people on death row have earned their sentence due to their horrific crimes. They also say that the death penalty system needs to be reformed, not repealed. For instance, opponents say that the added costs of death sentence appeals are purposefully created in order to delay punishment. They also say that death row inmates are no more expensive to house than regular inmates.
But Prop 34 supporters say that the death penalty system is broken beyond repair and that innocent people continue to be sentenced to death. Since 1973, over 140 innocent men and women on death row have been exonerated and freed. Prop 34 proponents say the money spent on death row cases would be better spent locally, so police can solve homicides and rapes.
For: Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate Preident pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, The Innocence Project, Former Police Chief of San Francisco Anthony Ribera, Los Angeles Times, La Opinion, San Francisco Chronicle and San Gabriel Valley Tribune. See more at safecalifornia.org.
Against: Former Governor Pete Wilson, LA County DA Steve Cooley, Contra Costa County DA Mark Peterson, Los Angeles Police Protective League, Citizens Against Homicide and Crime Survivors, Inc. See more at waitingforjustice.net.