Why CA Death Row Inmates Oppose Measure to Abolish Capital Punishment


Police and California death row inmates agree on one thing, a law enforcement group told its members: They oppose next week’s ballot measure to replace the death penalty with life without parole, says the Los Angeles Times. That statement, in a newsletter from the Los Angeles Police Protective League opposing Proposition 34, highlighted what defense lawyers have been saying. Many death row inmates who are years away from execution would rather gamble on being executed than lose their state-paid lawyers, a preference confirmed by a limited, informal survey of some on death row.

“That is a significant sentiment, since the death penalty in California is mostly life without parole anyway,” said Don Specter of California’s Prison Law Office, who personally supports the initiative. “So the chances of them getting executed are not that high, and if Prop. 34 passes, their cases will be treated differently.” California has not executed an inmate in six years and has put to death only 13 offenders since 1978. If Proposition 34 passes, death row inmates will be merged into the general prison population and have their sentences commuted to life without parole. “If you are thinking you are going to get your conviction overturned, you certainly have a better chance if you are sentenced to death rather than life because you are provided with more legal assistance,” said Kent Scheidegger of a law-and-order group fighting Proposition 34. “There is no question about that.”

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