Will end of death penalty bring campaign against life imprisonment?

It is time to fix the Death Penalty in California and shift the focus to victims’ rights. I am urging voters to vote No On Prop 62 and Yes On Prop 66
— Mike Ramos

Scott Peterson, center, convicted of killing his wife Laci Peterson and his unborn child, faces away from the camera during exercise time at the North Segregation Unit, San Quentin State Prison’s oldest death row facility, on Dec. 29, 2015. Randy Pench The Sacramento Bee file

 

By Alexei Koseff

If California voters abolish the death penalty this fall, its foes will go after life imprisonment next, proponents of a measure to speed up the capital punishment process warned Wednesday.

“Once all those attorneys who have been trying to prevent the death penalty from being enforced have nothing better to do, they’re going to turn to life without parole,” Dane Gillette, former chief assistant attorney general of California, told The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board on Tuesday. It’s “the next step to get rid of what they consider to be too much incarceration.”

Voters face two contrasting death penalty initiatives this November: Proposition 62, which would replace it with life without parole, and Proposition 66, which aims to expedite the appeals process by expanding the pool of lawyers eligible to take on capital cases and instituting shorter timelines for legal challenges.

Gillette said Proposition 62 supporters overstate the promised savings on litigation and incarceration, because inmates will simply bring the same sort of petitions against their life sentences that they currently bring against their death sentences – a phenomenon that he said can be seen in states where there is no longer capital punishment.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, pointed out that California has already reversed course on life imprisonment for minors. After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 limited the use of life terms for murderers under the age of 18, California passed a law allowing those in its prisons to be resentenced.

“If the death penalty is abolished on Tuesday, the drive to abolish life without parole begins on Wednesday,” Scheidegger said.

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