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Battle Over Prop. 34 Death Penalty Ban Heats Up

While the latest ad from Prop. 34's backers focuses on wrongful convictions, opponents spotlight former 49ers cornerback Kermit Alexander, whose family was gunned down in 1984 by a man who remains on Death Row.

With less than two weeks to go before the Nov. 6 election, the battle over Proposition 34, the proposed ban of the death penalty in California, appears to be tightening, and its proponents are raising the stakes.

Yes on Prop. 34, the campaign to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole, create a $100 million fund to investigate rape and murder cases and require inmates to work and pay restitution to victims or their families, launched a $2 million radio and TV ad campaign this week.

In doing so, Prop. 34 backers hope to make the case that capital punishment in California is a waste of taxpayer money, citing the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimate that the state could save as much as $130 million a year if the death penalty is abolished. No inmate has been executed since early 2006, when a federal judge ordered a moratorium because of questions about lethal injection protocol. That moratorium remains in place, and Prop. 34 proponents also cite a former appeals court judge's 2011 study that found that since 1978 capital punishment has cost California about $4 billion.

All male Death Row inmates in California are housed at Marin's San Quentin State Prison, where executions were carried out until the moratorium.

A new prop-34 TV ad in major California media markets also argues that the death penalty often prevents the wrongfully convicted from seeking justice.

"We know it is a close race," said Erin Mellon, spokesperson for the Yes on 34 campaign. "On this issue, people are split pretty much down the middle with a very small number of undecided voters that both sides are obviously trying to cater to."

As both sides reach out to those undeciced voters, Prop. 34's proponents have considerably more resources to wield. The campaign has raised nearly $7 million as of Oct. 16, much of which has come from Hyatt Development Corp. billionaire Nicholas Pritzker, the Atlantic Advocacy Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, according to MapLight's VotersEdge campaign finance tool.

Prop. 34 opponents, meanwhile, have raised just $342,000 to date, nearly all of which has come from the Peace Officers Research Association of California.

Despite its vast fundraising lead, the Yes on Prop. 34 campaign has faced an uphill battle in swaying public opinion about the death penalty, but recent polls have indicated the race is tightening.

While a Sept. 30 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found voters against Prop. 34 51 percent to 38 percent, an Oct. 11 poll conducted by the California Business Roundtable/Pepperdine University showed that margin narrowing to 48 percent to 43 percent.

Where do you stand on Prop. 34? Tell us in the Comments.

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chuck2251 October 25, 2012 at 05:38 PM
When there is dna evidence ,execute them the next day saves a lot of money.. limit the appeal process like Texas. don t argue whether the needle needs to be sterile.. beheading is the most humane form of execution.. .2 of 1 second and its all over.. do the research..
Belle (Orchid Lady) October 25, 2012 at 08:01 PM
The only problem with your DNA theory, is just because someone's DNA is found, it doesn't always indicate guilt. I say if there is indisputable evidence of guilt, such as a video of the crime or a confession to the crime then the death penalty can be considered if the victims family wants it.
DBell October 25, 2012 at 11:18 PM
I have had this idea that we let a group like the innocence project submit a case they feel should have the sentence commuted to life, and it will be. But they mus also submit a case which the guilt is so obvious the monster is executed immediately (someone like Richard Allen Davis). My major beef I have with those that argue there 'could' be a mistake because the evidence isn't overwhelming sometimes, is the fact that they ignore the opposite end of the spectrum, those where guilt is absolute, like Jeffery Dahmer. So a process like I described above can work for both sides of the argument.
firewater October 27, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I agree with the Death Penalty, I just wish it would happen sooner instead of all the appeals over the decades..Now that's a waste of taxpayers money.

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