Abolitionists are gaining momentum in a campaign to ask California voters to replace the death penalty with lifelong imprisonment, winning over influential prosecutors, police chiefs, and other law enforcement leaders who have turned against the ultimate punishment as a failure on all fronts, reports the Los Angeles Times. At the same time, backers of a bill in the legislature that would ask voters to renounce capital punishment withdrew it yesterday when it became apparent it was stalled.
Taxpayers for Justice, a coalition of death penalty foes galvanized by the spiraling costs of keeping execution as a sentencing option, immediately announced a citizens initiative aimed for the November 2012 ballot. Civil rights groups have been attempting to call attention to the costs of the death penalty for years. That message gained traction in June with the release of a comprehensive study by a federal judge and a law professor showing that taxpayers have spent $4 billion over the last three decades to carry out only 13 executions. There are 714 people on California’s death row, but only seven ave exhausted all appeals and would be eligible for execution once legal challenges to lethal injection procedures are concluded. The last execution in the state was nearly six years ago and none is expected in the near future.