August 31, 2011

Former LA prosecutor backs ending CA death penalty

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A former Los Angeles County district attorney joined an effort to end California's death penalty Monday, backing an initiative proposed for the November 2012 ballot that would replace capital punishment with life prison terms.

"The death penalty in California is broken and it is unfixable," Gil Garcetti said at a news conference held to release details of the proposed ballot measure. "It is more likely that the convicted murderer will die in prison before execution is imposed."

A recent study estimated the state spends $184 million annually on death penalty cases and incarceration above what it would cost to convert the terms to life behind bars. The former prosecutor said the ballot measure would devote $100 million over three years to law enforcement from money the state could save by ending capital punishment.

The ballot measure would also require murderers to work in prison, with their earnings going into a victim compensation fund, said Jeanne Woodford, a former San Quentin State Prison warden.

Woodford, also a former California corrections secretary, now is executive director of Death Penalty Focus, which works to eliminate executions.

Garcetti is one of 104 law enforcement officials who signed a support letter after lawmakers last week shelved a bill by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, that would have put a similar initiative on next year's ballot. Hancock's bill failed to get enough votes to clear the Assembly

Appropriations Committee.
Garcetti served two terms as top prosecutor in the state's most populous county before he was defeated in 2000.

Opponents say California's capital punishment system should be maintained but can be made more efficient and less costly.

Proponents must get approval from the attorney general and secretary of state before they can begin gathering signatures.

Campaign consultant Steve Smith said organizers began soliciting financial support only last week, after Hancock's bill was shelved. He said he is confident proponents can raise the $1.5 million or so they would need to get enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press
Posted: 08/29/2011 11:49:44 AM PDT
Updated: 08/29/2011 12:52:34 PM PDT

http://www.mercurynews.com/

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