California death penalty hangs in balance

California’s death penalty will itself be marched to the gallows if supporters of Proposition 34 can capture enough votes in November.

If successful, the repeal will be a monumental victory for opponents who’ve sought to abolish capital punishment for more than three decades.

Instead of playing the philosophical moral card, supporters of Prop. 34 — officially known as the “Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act” — ask voters to consider the financial burden the death penalty places on the state.

According to SAFE California, a coalition formed to abolish capital punishment in the state, efforts to enforce the death penalty have cost state taxpayers more than $4 billion since 1978.

The cost of a single death penalty case can run into the millions due to lengthy post-trial proceedings that involve a whole lot of legal support — all paid by the government.

Prop. 34 supporters say they’d like to see the money saved go into solving crimes instead. Even California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, who estimates he voted to uphold more than 200 death sentences during his decade of service, is backing the November ballot measure. He told SFGate:

 “…there’s no chance California’s death penalty can ever be fixed. The millions wasted on this broken system would be much better spent keeping teachers, police and firefighters on their jobs.”

Opponents, though, say eliminating the death penalty would be unjust to the victims.

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a victims rights organization, has petitioned to remove the proposal from the November ballot. CJLF President Michael Rushford told the Ex:

“The supporters of Proposition 34 sympathize with the murderers. The victims are somewhat down on their priority scale.”

If approved, Prop. 34 would convert the death sentences of California’s 725 death row inmates into life in prison without the possibility of parole.