Former death penalty supporters now working against it

Maura Dolan (Los Angeles Times) | September 23, 2012

Donald Heller wrote the 1978 ballot measure that expanded California’s death penalty. Ronald Briggs, whose father spearheaded the campaign, worked to achieve its passage. Jeanne Woodford, a career corrections official, presided over four executions.

The lawyer, El Dorado County supervisor and retired San Quentin Prison warden now want California’s death penalty abolished, contending the state no longer can afford a system that has cost an estimated $4 billion since 1978 and executed 13 prisoners.

“We started with six people on death row in 1978, and we never thought that there would one day be 729,” said Briggs, a conservative Republican. “We never conceived of an appellate process that is decades long.”

Backing Proposition 34, which would make life without possibility of parole the state’s toughest punishment, the three have joined with retired Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti to try to dismantle a system in which each has played a role.

Death penalty supporters concede the system is not working but argue that cost estimates are inflated and that changes in law and court rulings could speed up the process. Mend it, don’t end it, the opponents of Proposition 34 argue.

They insist that executions could resume if the state were to move quickly to adopt a one-drug method of lethal injection.

A federal judge in 2006 halted executions out of concern that the state’s three-drug method might cause excruciating pain in violation of the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. A state judge who examined subsequent revisions to the state’s execution method ruled that the required administrative procedures had not been followed.

Read more at: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/23/local/la-me-death-penalty-20120923

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