A majority of Californians still favor the death penalty, but their support has waned from 79% to 66% over the last two decades as fears of executing the wrongly convicted escalate, reports the Los Angeles Times. A survey conducted by Craig Haney, a UC Santa Cruz psychology professor and lawyer, also showed that most Californians erroneously believe that it costs taxpayers less to execute condemned prisoners than to keep them locked up for life.
In California, it costs $138,000 a year to incarcerate each of San Quentin State Prison’s 685 death row inmates, nearly three times the non-capital inmate cost, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The average stay on death row is 25 years and growing as legal challenges have kept executions on hold for 3 1/2 years and limited the number to 13 since capital punishment was restored in 1976. “My sense is that the whole issue of the death penalty is much more unsettled now than it has been in the past 20 or so years,” said Haney.