California "Taxpayers for Justice" Launches Initiative to Put Death Penalty on 2012 Ballot

After years of reports about the high costs of California’s death penalty, including a recent study that found the state has already spent $4 billion on capital punishment resulting in 13 executions, a group of Californians has announced a citizens’ initiative to put death penalty repeal on the 2012 ballot. The group, Taxpayers for Justice, includes over 100 law enforcement leaders, in addition to crime-victim advocates and exonerated individuals. Among them is former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, whose office pursued dozens of capital cases during his 32 years as a prosecutor. He said, “My frustration is more about the fact that the death penalty does not serve any useful purpose and it’s very expensive.” The high cost of California’s death penalty has gained attention as the state faces major budget cuts. A study released in June by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Arthur L. Alarcon found that California’s death penalty system is currently costing the state about $184 million per year. In April, California Governor Jerry Brown cancelled plans to build a new death row, saying “It would be unconscionable to earmark $356 million for a new and improved death row while making severe cuts to education and programs that serve the most vulnerable among us.” The ballot initiative will be announced at a press conference in Sacramento on August 29, with Jeanne Woodford, the former warden of San Quentin State Prison who oversaw four executions, as one of the speakers.

C. Williams, “California death penalty foes to try for ballot initiative,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2011.) See also Costs and California. See DPIC’s Summary of Judge Alarcon’s cost study. See Press Release from Taxpayers for Justice.