Long time anti-death penalty activist and former television actor Mike Farrell has submitted an initiative to abolish California’s death penalty with the state Attorney General’s Office.
The measure, which proponents call the "Justice That Works Act of 2016," would eliminate the possibility for California juries to sentence any future murderer to death and also convert the death sentences of every murderer currently on the state’s death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP).
The measure also restates existing law which requires that all incarcerated murderers work and that up to 60% of earned wages be appropriated for victim restitution.
The initiative’s declarations identify the death penalty as a "failed government program that wastes taxpayer dollars" asserting that over 150 innocent people have been sentenced to death in the United States and several innocent people have been executed.
"That claim is patently false," said Michael Rushford, President of the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (CJLF). "Mr. Farrell likely gets this number from the Death Penalty Information Center’s so-called innocence list." The Center’s own website admits that actual innocence is not the criteria they use. Mr. Farrell has to go back to the first half of the last century to make the claim that a demonstrably innocent person has been executed anywhere in the U.S."
In 2012, an initiative to abolish the death penalty, submitted by Farrell’s group, Death Penalty Focus and the American Civil Liberties Union, qualified for the November general election ballot. Although the initiative received $7.4 million in support, much of it from out-of-state contributors, compared to $310,000 raised by state law enforcement groups to oppose the measure, it was narrowly defeated at the polls.
Earlier this year, the California Attorney General settled a lawsuit filed by CJLF on behalf of the families of murder victims to end nine years of delay in establishing an execution protocol required to resume executions. The settlement requires the state to announce a court-approved protocol in November raising the possibility of resuming executions by the fall of 2016. The Foundation also helped win a U.S. Supreme Court decision in late July (Glossip v. Gross), which requires murderers challenging a state’s execution protocol to submit an available alternative protocol.
"The upshot of these developments is that major causes for further delay in executions, both in California and nationally, have been removed," said Rushford. "With our state’s worst murderers on the brink of receiving the justice they deserve, it is hard to believe that voters will knowingly choose to deny it permanently," he added.
CJLF President Michael Rushford is available for further comment at (916) 446-0345.