Proposition 66 – NO

The Death Penalty Procedure Regulation Initiative changes the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences. It would facilitate capital punishment.

The pro-death lobby readily admits “California’s current death penalty system is broken.” Their “solution is to mend” it with this law and order measure intended to more quickly and efficiently put those accused to death by:

  • Changing procedures governing state court appeals and petitions challenging death penalty convictions and sentences.
  • Designating the superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions.
  • Changing procedures governing state court appeals and petitions challenging death penalty convictions and sentences.
  • Establishing mandatory timeframes for state court death penalty review.
  • Requiring appointed attorneys who take non-capital appeals to accept death penalty appeals.
  • Exempting prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods.
  • Authorizing death row inmate transfers among California prisons.
  • Increasing the portion of condemned inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution.

In addition, approval of Prop 66 would void any other voter approved measures related to the death penalty.

Proponents describe themselves as “elected law enforcement leaders, police officers, frontline prosecutors, and the families of murder victims.” As of August 2016, proponents have raised $3.5 million, mainly from police associations, compared to just over $400,000 raised by the opposition.

Opponents include labor unions, lawyers, human rights groups, NAACP, League of Women Voters, and religious organizations. They argue Prop 66 would:

  • Lead to miscarriages of justice and the execution of the innocent as have similar laws in Texas after which Prop 66 is modeled.
  • Lead to the appointment of unqualified counsel for the accused, leading to costly mistakes.
  • Limits the ability to present new evidence of innocence.

Opponents of Prop 66 contend the California Supreme Court would continue to be the last step in what would become a lengthier process, and thus continue to be the bottleneck in the process. The Court’s task would be complicated by the need to review decisions made by judges at the Superior Court and Courts of Appeal who have no experience handling capital habeas cases. Since all death penalty cases must be reviewed by the Supreme Court before moving into federal court, it is more efficient to immediately send the cases to the Supreme Court, rather than have them pass through two additional levels of state court review before reaching the state Supreme Court. Yet Proposition 66 eliminates what is already a streamlined process.

While opponents and proponents argue whether Prop 66 would lower costs to the public, reduce legal delays, and cut bureaucracy, the most direct means to those ends would be simply to abolish the death penalty by voting YES on Prop 62 and voting NO on Prop 66.

Hypocritically the very rightwing forces, who are calling for less government interference, are advocating in the instance of Prop 66 for the ultimate power of the state to take the lives of its citizens. This apparent paradox reflects the larger neoliberal project, which uses the rhetoric of reducing state interference, but in fact seeks only to reduce the social welfare functions of the state while vastly expanding the surveillance and coercive functions of the state including intensifying the reach of capital punishment with Prop 66.

While Hillary Clinton, her husband and former president, and her Republican presidential opponents are all proponents of the death penalty, the Peace and Freedom Party and its presidential candidate Gloria La Riva oppose the death penalty and urge a NO vote on Prop 66, and a Yes vote on Prop 62.