Three former California governors urged voters to preserve the state’s death penalty by defeating a ballot initiative seeking to abolish capital punishment on cost grounds, Reuters reports. A recent poll showed the measure gaining support but falling short of passing. The initiative would commute sentences of 725 death row inmates. California has nearly a quarter of the nation’s condemned prisoners but has executed none in six years.
“Prop. 34 is a horrible injustice,” said former Democratic Governor Gray Davis. “Like a giant eraser, it would wipe out the death penalty convictions of 700 killers on death row.” Those convicts are responsible for killing 200 children and 43 police officers, said Davis, who was governor from 1999 to 2003. He was joined in opposing death penalty repeal by former Republican governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian. Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been silent on the initiative. A poll of 1,504 registered voters released on Friday by USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times showed support for repeal at 42 percent, with 45 percent opposed. The poll had a margin of error of 2.9 percent.