Release Date:  November 7, 2012
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

Bookmark and Share

Statement of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation on the defeat of Proposition 34:

The people of California have once again reaffirmed that the death penalty is fundamental justice for the worst murderers. They did so despite a misleading campaign that massively outspent its opponents. We had a vigorous debate, and the people have decided.

Yet a great many Californians voted for Proposition 34 even though they support the death penalty as a general matter. They did so because they are frustrated with the ineffectiveness and excessive cost of the present system. These voices should also be heard. The choice was to mend it or end it, and California’s leaders must now mend it, not preserve the status quo. Specifically, the following actions should be taken as soon as possible:

1. Governor Brown should adopt the more modern method of lethal injection already adopted and used in six other states and already approved by the federal court hearing the California litigation. He should invoke an available exception to the Administrative Procedure Act to put the new protocol into immediate effect while the lengthy regulation process is carried out. The State of Washington carried out an execution six months after adoption of the new method, and California can also.

2. The Legislature should limit capital appeals to one full review in all cases where there is no doubt of the identity of the perpetrator, which includes most capital cases. There is no reason why Randy Kraft, caught with the body of his 16th victim in his car, should have nine additional reviews of his case at taxpayer expense. This reform has been repeatedly killed in committee in years past.

3. The Judicial Council should amend the pointlessly restrictive standards for who is deemed “qualified” to handle a capital appeal so that we can expand the pool of lawyers and speed these cases up. Even the American Bar Association, as anti-death penalty as it is, agrees that the kind of rigid standards presently in effect in California have little bearing on the actual quality of representation.

The defeat of Proposition 34 was an important victory for the cause of justice. But the status quo is unacceptable. California’s leaders in all three branches of government have failed to this point. It is high time for them to act.

CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.