CA narrowly votes to keep death penalty


An inmate at Chino State Prison sleeps on his bunk bed in a gymnasium that was modified to house prisoners on December 10, 2010 in Chino, California.


Kevork Djansezian

LOS ANGELES -- Californians narrowly rejected a proposal to end the state's death penalty. Proposition 34 lost by about 6 percentage points, disappointing death penalty opponents who were hoping to eliminate the nation's largest death row, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. 

If passed, the prop would have repealed the death penalty and replaced it with life without parole. The prop would have applied retroactively and re-sentenced California's 727 death row inmates to life. 

The death penalty has been a heavy financial burden on the state. California has spent $4 billion on death penalty criminals since voters first approved it in 1978. That's $308 million per execution, according to CNN Money. 

McGregor Scott, former United States Attorney and Co-Chair for No on Prop 34, acknowledged the current death penalty appeals process makes the system too slow and expensive

"The problems with delay and expense of California's death penalty are entirely fixable," he told the San Jose Mercury News.

"Other states have corrected the same problems, and it is now time for California to do the same. If the Legislature continues to abandon its responsibility by refusing to implement common-sense reforms then we will put our full support behind a ballot initiative to get the job done in 2014."

Natasha Minsker, with the Proposition 34 campaign, told the SGV Tribune that the loss would not end their efforts to abolish the death penalty. 

"This issue is not going away," she said Wednesday. "53 percent is not a mandate for carrying out executions. This state is clearly evenly divided on the death penalty."

According to KPCC, the death penalty has had broad public support in California since the beginning.  As recently as 2010, a Field Poll showed 70 percent of voters wanted to keep the death penalty.

CNN reports that California's death row houses some notorious killers such as mass murderer and serial rapist Richard "Night Stalker" Ramirez, serial killer Charles Ng and also Scott Peterson, who murdered his pregnant wife Laci Peterson.