California Voters Voted Down Death Penalty Initiative Proposition 34

The Recorder published a story regarding California’s Proposition 34, also referred to as the “Death Penalty Initiative Statute” that appeared on the November 6th ballot. Prop 34 would have repealed the death penalty as the maximum punishment for murder, replacing it with life imprisonment without parole. Prop 34 would have also required defendants found guilty of murder to work while in prison and apply their earnings towards victim restitution.

Current State of Executions in CA
California has not carried out any executions since 2006, when U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel determined that there were significant flaws in the state’s execution process. Judge Fogel made his decision after death row inmate Michael A. Morales argued that the officials tasked with carrying out executions at San Quentin prison were not properly trained and the poor conditions of the death chamber amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Following several hearings and a personal inspection of San Quentin’s execution facility, Judge Fogel ruled in Morales v. Tilton, that reform of the execution procedures was needed, writing that California’s procedure for “lethal injection is broken, but it can be fixed.”

Reacting to Judge Fogel’s opinion, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation overhauled its execution procedures and updated its facilities. However, various challenges in state and federal courts have blocked California from carrying out any executions during the last six years. In fact, in 2010, California attempted to execute Albert Greenwood Brown with a single dose of sodium thiopental, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stopped the execution based on California’s failure to adopt a single-drug injection procedure.

Surge Coming?
Some individuals foresee a situation mirroring that which has occurred in Arizona in recent years. For almost ten years, Arizona didn’t carry out any executions due to disputes over death penalty procedures. However, since resuming executions in 2010, Arizona has executed 10 men in two years, more than any state but Texas. When asked whether, in the wake of a rejection by voters of Prop 34, could California see a dramatic increase in the number of executions, Berkeley attorney Cliff Gardner stated, “It could happen. I think it’s definitely plausible. Has California ever seen anything like it? Not in our adult lifetimes. It may shock some people and may please others.”

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California currently has 726 individuals on death row. The Recorder reports that, of that group, fourteen have exhausted their habeas corpus claims and could be executed once the legal challenges to California’s current execution procedures have been resolved.

Orange County Defense
Orange County criminal defense attorney Lauren K. Johnson has extensive experience and is available to protect the rights of the accused, including those charged with capital crimes. If you have questions regarding California’s criminal law or your rights, contact attorney Lauren K. Johnson today.