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California Death Penalty Initiative

The California Attorney General has prepared a title and summary for the initiative to reform the state's death penalty, as required by law.  Here it is:

DEATH PENALTY. PROCEDURES. INITIATIVE STATUTORY AND CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Gives state appellate courts jurisdiction over death penalty appeals, before consideration by California Supreme Court. Changes procedures governing state court petitions challenging death penalty convictions and sentences. Designates superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions. Imposes time limits on state court death penalty review. Requires appointed attorneys who take noncapital appeals to accept death penalty appeals. Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods. Authorizes death row inmate transfers among California state prisons.  States death row inmates are required to work and pay victim restitution. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government:  Increased state costs potentially in the tens of millions of dollars annually for several years related to direct appeals and habeas corpus proceedings, with the fiscal impact on such costs being unknown in the long run. Potential state correctional savings in the tens of millions of dollars annually. (13-0055.)

A pretty fair summary of the initiative overall, given the constraint of putting it in 100 words.

The last two sentences, in bold, come from the fiscal analysis by the Legislative Analyst Office, and I think the LAO overstates costs and understates savings.  Yes, the initiative will increase annual budgets in the first couple of years as the backlog is cleared out, but this is mostly moving up expenses that would be incurred anyway.  The savings are understated.  The initiative will eliminate successive state habeas petitions in most cases (those with no question of actual innocence or ineligibility, which is the vast majority).  Long-term, we will eliminate the costs of a long period of incarceration and the skyrocketing cost of health care for aging inmates.

The campaign website is here.  Every contribution helps.

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