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Proposition 34: death penalty, initiative statute

Molly Young | 10/17/2012, 5 p.m.

Proposition 34 would repeal the death penalty in California and replace it with life in prison without the chance of parole, and would commute the sentences of those currently awaiting execution on death row to life in prison without possibility of parole.

The statute also states that those found guilty of murder would have to work while in prison with a portion of their wages deducted and used as restitution in a fund for crime victims. It would also direct $100 million to law enforcement agencies for homicide and rape case investigations.

This initiative emphasizes two goals. It seeks to avoid mistakenly executing anyone who may later be found innocent, and seeks to direct the funds that are currently used in the judicial system for murder cases, and the special handling of death row inmates into a special fund called the SAFE California Fund that will give grants to police and sheriff departments and district attorneys' offices to solve and prosecute more homicides and rapes.

Peter DeMarco, a spokesman for No on 34, which is one of the funding groups of the initiative, according to the secretary of state's website, states, "There is a false assumption that by removing the death penalty there will be no appeal to life without parole cases. There is no statute of limitations on those either. All those litigation costs would still be there, even if Prop. 34 were to pass. Prop. 34 is an attempt to weaken public safety laws. It would allow more than 700 convicted murderers who have committed some of the most unspeakable, horrifying crimes to escape justice.

Greg Akili, a spokesman for the Yes on 34, says "I can sum up Prop. 34 with three points. It will make sure the state never executes an innocent person; it will save taxpayers $130 million that can be used for more productive things like solving more rapes and murders and money going to the general fund for education and to help balance the budget; and thirdly, the system is broken, it cannot be fixed, and a number of judges, including judges who sat on the California Supreme Court, say the system cannot be fixed."

According to the legislative analysis of the initiative, the measure could result in net savings of $100 to $130 million to the state and local governments, but this amount could be higher or lower by tens of millions of dollars depending on how the measure is followed.