California Votes to Decide Future of Death Penalty


On November 8, California voters will have another chance to end the state’s broken death penalty system, which has resulted in the largest death row population in the country.

If passed, the Repeal of the Death Penalty Initiative of 2016, or Proposition 62, will abolish California’s death penalty in favor of life imprisonment without possibility of parole as the maximum sentence for murder. People receiving such a sentence would be required to work in prison, with a portion of their wages applied to victim restitution.

The measure would apply retroactively to those already sentenced to death.

Retaining the death penalty will not deter violent crime, address the increasing number of wrongful convictions, or resolve the backlog of cases in lower courts. In addition, the lengthy appeals process and death row facilities cost California taxpayers more than $150 million every year. No one has been executed in California in 10 years. Since 1978, California residents have spent $5 billion to execute 13 people.

Former presidential candidate and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley endorsed Proposition 62 this week, calling the death penalty system ineffective, costly, and racially biased. Maryland residents voted to repeal the death penalty in 2013.

“I want to see the death penalty become a relic of the past,” Governor O’Malley said.

Support for capital punishment has dropped nationwide as violent crime rates continue to fall and taxpayer concerns over costs persist. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty and four more states have imposed a moratorium on executions. Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court held that Florida’s death penalty statute is unconstitutional, and the Delaware Supreme Court struck down its death penalty earlier this month.

An opposing measure, Proposition 66, is also set for the November 8 ballot. The measure is supported by California prosecutors. Its proponents believe that it would expedite executions by changing the ways appeals are processed.

EJI believes that death penalty reform is long overdue in the United States. Proposition 66 would only increase the risks of executing an innocent person, contribute to surging taxpayer costs, and result in even more bureaucratic delays.