A Decade After California’s Last Execution, Voters Divided On Death Penalty


Ten years ago Sunday, California executed Clarence Ray Allen, at 76 the oldest person ever put to death in the state. No one has been executed since. Soon after Allen's death in 2006, problems with lethal injection protocols brought the state's execution machinery to a halt, and it has never restarted, The Intercept reports. In the meantime, California's death row, by far the nation’s largest, has continued to grow, from 646 people in January 2006 to some 750 today. Last year, California officially ran out of space on death row, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to request $3.2 million from the state legislature for more cells.

To date, only 13 people have been executed since the state brought back the death penalty in 1977. Meanwhile, more than 100 have died facing execution. A quarter of these prisoners have committed suicide, stat e officials say. The cost to California taxpayers has been more than $4 billion as of 2011, and by 2030, the projected cost will reach $9 billion, with more than 1,000 people on death row. In 2012, a hard-fought ballot initiative to replace capital punishment with life without parole lost by a narrow margin, and in 2014 support for the death penalty dropped to a 50-year low. Yet last year the state took a number of steps to resume executions. In November, the same month a federal judge overturned a ruling that had declared the state's death penalty unconstitutional on Eighth Amendment grounds, officials introduced a new “humane and dignified” lethal injection protocol. A Field Poll has found voters evenly divided on pro- and anti-death penalty ballot initiatives on the ballot this year.

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