Opponents of a newly passed California initiative aimed at speeding up executions have asked the state Supreme Court to block it, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Proposition 66, approved by voters Tuesday, will cause “confusion and upheaval” in the courts, interfere with their authority, and force both courts and lawyers into hurried and less-reliable decisions in capital cases, said the suit filed by former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp and Ron Briggs, a former El Dorado County supervisor. Briggs’ father, state Sen. John Briggs, sponsored the state’s current death penalty law as a 1978 ballot measure.
With all precincts reporting but some late ballots yet to be counted, Proposition 66 had a 50.9 percent majority. Voters rejected Prop. 62, which would have repealed the death penalty and made life in prison without parole the mandatory sentence for capital murder. Prop. 66, sponsored by prosecutors, requires the state Supreme Court to rule on death penalty appeals within five years of sentencing, more than twice as fast as its current pace. It sets the same five-year deadline for the second-stage appeals known as habeas corpus and requires defense lawyers to file those appeals with the trial judge within a year, compared with the previous three-year deadline. The lawsuit said the measure’s timetables and other restrictions would “impair the courts’ exercise of discretion, as well as the courts’ ability to act in fairness to the litigants before them.”