Death Penalty

By Don Thompson, Associated Press
Jun. 18, 2016 – 12:24 AM ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California voters will be asked to do away with the nation’s largest death row after the secretary of state’s office said the repeal measure qualified for the November ballot on Friday.

A second, competing initiative to speed up executions is also expected to be certified for the ballot soon, setting up a stark choice for voters sorting through numerous initiatives.

The repeal measure would substitute life sentences with no chance of parole for nearly 750 condemned inmates while ending legal challenges that have blocked executions for a decade.

Proponents assert that in addition to being costly the death penalty drags out the legal process, denying closure for many victims’ families.

“Because of all the problems with the death penalty, not a single person has been executed here in the last 10 years. Nonetheless, Californians continue to pay for it in many ways,” said Mike Farrell, a supporter of the Justice That Works coalition. “Whether you look at the death penalty from a taxpayer, a criminal justice or a civil rights perspective, what is clear is that it fails in every respect. We have to do better in California.”

The proposal comes as state corrections officials consider substituting a single lethal drug for the three injections last used in 2006 to execute 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen for ordering a triple murder.

A nationwide shortage of execution drugs has helped make it far more likely that a condemned inmate will die of natural causes or suicide than strapped to the gurney in California’s new — and never used — execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. California has executed just 13 condemned inmates since 1978.

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