Voters in California have taken a step to improve the state’s existing death penalty laws by passing a proposition that would speed up the process, an Associated Press (AP) tally of votes showed Tuesday.
“California voters not only want to keep the death penalty intact but they want it to work as intended,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert reportedly said in a statement. “The reforms outlined in Prop. 66 are smart fixes that will eradicate waste, delays and inefficiencies while protecting due process for all those who are given the ultimate sentence of death.”
Proposition 66 — which was passed with 51 percent support — will speed up executions by appointing trial courts to hear petitions regarding death row convictions, limiting successive petitions and increasing the number of lawyers who can take on death penalty appeals.
Proposition 62, which could have replaced the death penalty for murder with life in prison without parole, failed with just over 46 percent of the vote, putting California in a league of conservative states at a time when the trend is moving toward abolishing capital punishment.
“We would like nothing better than a criminal justice system that is responsive and fair,” said Ana Zamora, manager of the No on Prop. 66 campaign, according to the AP. “But California just made a mistake the size of Texas. We cannot say with any certainty that California will not execute an innocent person.”
While there is consensus on both sides that the current system is deeply flawed — over 900 convicted killers were sent to death row but only 13 have been executed since 1978 — opponents of the new reforms maintain speeding up the process could lead to wrongful convictions.
Anti-capital punishment activists have asked the California Supreme Court to block Proposition 66 from taking effect but supporters of the popularly passed measure say it is just a move to stall proceedings which would otherwise allow executions to resume from 2017.