California legislators will consider on January 10 what is likely to be a contentious proposal to postpone executions for as long as three years, reports the Los Angeles Times. A committee will take up a bill to put a moratorium on executions until a commission finishes examining whether California’s criminal justice system allows innocent people to be convicted. The bill, the first of its kind in Sacramento in more than a decade, faces substantial political and legal hurdles. Its hearing, scheduled before convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams’ execution, comes as the state is poised to perform a record number of executions in the coming year.
The commission is supposed to suggest improvements by the end of 2007. Among the topics the panel will examine are the frequency of police suppression of exculpatory evidence and false testimony from witnesses and jailhouse informants. eath penalty proponents will vigorously oppose any delay. “This is the most liberal Legislature in the country,” said Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks). “I would not be the least bit surprised if it adopted a moratorium or even attempted to rescind the death penalty entirely. But if they do, they’ll have a fight on their hands.” California has 647 people on death row, more than any other state. Twelve have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978. Officials estimate that two to five executions will be scheduled in 2006.