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Prop 34 and the Rest of the Country

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Lately I have been blogging a lot on Proposition 34, so I thought I would put up a quick note on why this is not just a California issue.  Supporters of justice elsewhere in the country should also be very concerned.

This is the Battle of the Bulge.  Nationwide, we had been making progress toward an effective death penalty over the years.  We won in the Supreme Court with Teague v. Lane, McCleskey v. Zant, and Coleman v. Thompson.  We won in Congress with the enactment of AEDPA.  Then we went back to the court to implement that act with a series of decisions from Felker v. Turpin to Williams v. Taylor to Cullen v. Pinholster.

The other side has had success with a counteroffensive, though.  First they created delay and expense, and then they convinced a few legislatures that the delay and expense made the death penalty not worth having.

California is different, though.  The death penalty law is a popular initiative, and only another vote of the people can overturn it.  This is the first time in recent years that the people of any state have voted on the issue directly.  It is symbolically important nationwide, both as a direct vote and because of the size of the state.

The opponents' national strategy is to try to localize the death penalty to the South before killing it off completely.  Even if you live in a state where the death penalty is safe from legislative abolition, it is important that this isolation strategy fail.  If the bulk of the country does not have the death penalty, then federal barriers will be erected to make its enforcement impossible in the states that retain it.

As with the World War II Battle of the Bulge, I believe this is the fight that will halt the counteroffensive as resume the drive to victory.  That is why this fight is critically important, not just for California but for the cause of justice nationwide.

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