California Proposition 34, the End the Death Penalty Initiative (2012)
|Referred by:||Petition signatures|
- 1 Election results
- 2 Support
- 3 Opposition
- 4 Text of measure
- 5 Editorial opinion
- 6 Polling information
- 7 Path to the ballot
- 8 Lawsuits
- 9 External links
- 10 References
Specifically, Proposition 34 would have:
- Repealed the death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replaced it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
- Applied retroactively to persons already sentenced to death.
- Required persons found guilty of murder to work while in prison, with their wages to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them.
- Created a $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases.
At the time of the vote on Proposition 34, California had 725 people on death row. If Proposition 34 had been approved, their sentences would have been replaced with "life in prison without the possibility of parole". These prisoners would also have been required to seek jobs within the prison system, and their earnings would have gone to crime victims. Seven of the 725 people on death row at the time of the vote had exhausted all appeals and were eligible for execution, although legal challenges to California's lethal injection procedure must be resolved before any of them could be executed. The last time a prisoner was put to death in California was in 2006. At that time, a federal judge halted executions in the state until various changes were made in how the state administers the death penalty.
California was one of 33 states that, as of 2012, authorized the death penalty.
- See also: 2012 ballot measure election results
|California Proposition 34|
- These final, certified, results are from the California Secretary of State.
The arguments in favor of Proposition 34 in the state's official voter guide were submitted by:
- Gil Garcetti. Garcetti was the District Attorney of Los Angeles County from 1992–2000.
- Jeanne Woodford. Woodford is a former Warden of San Quentin State Prison who presided over 4 executions.
- Jennifer A. Waggoner. Waggoner is the president of the League of Women Voters of California.
- Antonio R. Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa is the mayor of the City of Los Angeles County.
- The Hon. John Van de Kamp. Van de Kamp was the Attorney General of California from 1983-1991.
- LaDoris Cordell. Cordell, now retired, was a trial court judge in the Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Other supporters included:
- H. Lee Sarokin, a retired federal judge. He said, "I've always said that I cannot envision that somebody contemplating murder sits at the kitchen table and says 'I'm not going to commit a murder because I could face the death penalty, but I will if I only face life imprisonment without parole'."
- Gerald Barnes, Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino.
- The California Catholic Conference of Bishops supported Proposition 34.
Arguments in favor
Arguments that were made in favor of replacing California's death penalty included:
- Repealing the death penalty will "save the state millions of dollars through layoffs of prosecutors and defense attorneys who handle death penalty cases, as well as savings from not having to maintain the nation's largest death row at San Quentin prison."
- The death penalty is intrinsically wrong.
- "Our system is broken, expensive and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake."
- “SAFE California will provide public protection by keeping those truly guilty of death penalty crimes locked up for life, and in the meantime saving us millions of dollars that will be invested in crime-fighting measures leading to the apprehension of serious criminals.” -- John Van de Kamp, former Attorney General of California and former Los Angeles County District Attorney.
- "[The death penalty] does not make our streets safer and it takes away resources from things that prevent violence, like keeping our kids in school and putting cops on the street. It also denies justice for thousands of grieving mothers who, like me, will never see their children’s murderer be held accountable for their crimes." –Lorraine Taylor, Murder Victim Family
- “We know that innocent people have been convicted of murder in California – three were released in 2011 after serving a total of 57 years – and that innocent people have been executed in other states. Nationwide, 140 inmates from death rows have been exonerated of the crimes for which they were wrongly convicted. In light of possible innocence, using the death penalty puts all Californians at risk of perpetrating the ultimate injustice of executing an innocent person[.]” –Bishop Cirilo Flores 
- “Life without parole protects public safety better than a death sentence. It's a lot cheaper, it keeps dangerous men and women locked up forever, and mistakes can be fixed.” -- Don Heller, SAFE California supporter and author of the 1978 initiative that reinstated the death penalty.
- A 2011 study by former prosecutor and federal judge Arthur Alarcón indicated that California spent approximately $4 billion to execute 13 people since the death penalty was reinstated. The Alarcón report also indicated that implementing the death penalty in California costs $184 million dollars per year more than implementing sentences of life without the possibility of parole. 
- Carlos Moreno, a former justice of the California Supreme Court, voted to uphold about 200 death sentences in his time on the state's highest court. He does not regret those votes and said that the convicted defendants "richly deserved to die." At the same time, Moreno supported Proposition 34 because "there’s no chance California’s death penalty can ever be fixed. The millions wasted on this broken system would be much better spent keeping teachers, police and firefighters on their jobs."
| Total campaign cash |
as of November 3, 2012
The donors listed in the chart below are the $50,000 and over donors to the "Yes on 34" campaign as of Saturday, November 3, 2012. Note that some of these donors gave their money to a committee that was simultaneously supporting or opposing more than one of the ballot propositions on the November 6, 2012 ballot. When that is the case, it is not generally possible to break down how much of that donor's money specifically was spent on the campaign for a particular proposition. Those contributions are listed below with shading; readers should not assume that all or even most of a donation to a multi-purpose committee was used for expenditures related to this particular proposition.
|The Atlantic Advocacy Fund||$1,000,000|
|ACLU (various local groups)||$757,847|
|M. Quinn Delaney||$275,000|
|Robert Alan Eustace||$125,000|
|Stephen M. Silberstein||$125,000|
|Death Penalty Focus||$76,200|
|California State Council of Service Employees (SEIU)||$62,500|
|California Teachers Association||$50,000|
|The Saul Zaentz Company||$50,000|
The arguments against Proposition 34 in the state's official voter guide were submitted by:
- The Hon. Pete Wilson. Wilson is a former Governor of California.
- Marc Klaas. Klaas is the father of Polly Klaas, who was murdered when she was 12.
- Keith Royal. Royal is the president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association.
- Carl V. Adams. Adams is the president of the California District Attorneys Association.
- Kermit Alexander. Alexander's family was executed by a Los Angeles gang member.
- Ron Cottingham. Cottingham is the president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California.
Other opponents included:
- McGregor Scott, a former U.S. Attorney.
- "Californians for Justice and Public Safety", a coalition formed to oppose the initiative.
- The "Criminal Justice Legal Foundation".
- Michael Ramos, San Bernardino County District Attorney
- The California Republican Party.
- Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully. Scully is a co-chairwoman of the "No on 34" campaign.
- "On behalf of crime victims and their loved ones who have suffered at the hands of California's most violent criminals, we are disappointed that the ACLU and their allies would seek to score political points in their continued efforts to override the will of the people and repeal the death penalty."
- “As we know, the citizens of California have voted for and approved the death penalty. I think the SAFE California Act is a slap in the face to the victims and their family members. Not only is the title of this initiative misleading but its proponents are simply using California’s tough economic times to further their cause.” - Michael Ramos, San Bernardino County District Attorney
- “You want to save money, let’s start carrying out the will of the voters and putting the prisoners on death row to death.” -Michael Ramos, San Bernardino County District Attorney
- “Whether or not to seek the death penalty is probably one of the most serious decisions I have to make as a district attorney. I have nothing but respect for the entire process, and just as much respect for our victims and their families who didn’t have a choice. They didn’t get to say goodbye to family members.” - Michael Ramos, San Bernardino County District Attorney
| Total campaign cash |
as of November 3, 2012
These are the $10,000 and over donors to the "No on 34" campaign as of Saturday, November 3, 2012:
|Peace Officers Research Association of California PAC||$192,967|
|San Manuel Band of Mission Indians||$25,000|
|Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs||$20,000|
|Riverside County Deputy District Attorney's Association PAC||$10,500|
|Los Angeles Police Protective League||$10,000|
|Kern County Prosecutor's Association||$10,000|
|Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff's Association||$10,000|
|Riverside Police Officers Association||$10,000|
Text of measure
Note: The original title given to Proposition 34 by election officials during the petition circulation stage was, "Death Penalty Repeal. Initiative Statute."
Supporters of Proposition 34 filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court (Sacramento) seeking to change Proposition 34's official ballot title. Their lawsuit was rejected by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley.
The state's official voter guide included two summaries for each statewide ballot measure. One summary, in bullet-point format, appeared in the long-form description of each measure. A shorter form of the summary appeared on the ballot label in the front of the voter guide, where there is a short description of each measure.
The long-form summary for Proposition 34 said:
The short-form (ballot label) summary for Proposition 33 said:
|"Repeals death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to existing death sentences. Directs $100 million to law enforcement agencies for investigations of homicide and rape cases."|
Neither of the two summaries in the final voter guide was identical to the summary that was originally given to Proposition 34, when its sponsors sought a summary prior to circulating petitions to qualify the measure for the ballot. The summary that was given by election officials to Proposition 34 at that time said:
|"Repeals death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to persons already sentenced to death. Requires persons found guilty of murder to work while in prison, with their wages to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them. Creates $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases."|
(This is a summary of the initiative's estimated "fiscal impact on state and local government" prepared by the California Legislative Analyst's Office and the Director of Finance.)
"Yes on 34"
- The Bay Area Reporter: "It costs state and county governments collectively between $100 million to $130 million annually to pay for the costs of death penalty trials, appeals, and corrections, savings that would be allocated to pay for increased investigation of unsolved rape and murder cases."
- The Contra Costa Times: "California's death penalty is archaic, unfairly applied and fiscally insane."
- The Daily Democrat (Woodland, California): "Initially we were opposed to this measure, but the more we read about the barbarity of the death penalty, and the number of nations worldwide which have banned it, the more we were in favor."
- The Lompoc Record: "The deliberate taking of another human’s life is the worst of transgressions, and if one adheres to the eye-for-an-eye belief, the death penalty seems appropriate. On the other hand, death-penalty opponents will point out that the same religious teachings promote the concept that thou shalt not kill, as in execute."
- The Long Beach Press-Telegram: "Supporting Proposition 34 doesn't mean being sympathetic to the state's most heinous murderers. These are bad people who have done unspeakable things. But the reality is that sentencing them to die doesn't result in death, just a private cell and a personal legal team dedicated to sparing their life."
- The Los Angeles Daily News: "Ending this farce of a punishment would save California about $130 million a year."
- The Los Angeles Times: "...eliminating the death penalty would end the risk that the hands of all Californians will be stained with the blood of an innocent."
- The Marin Independent Journal: "California's death penalty has become more of a deterrent for executions than for murderers. Meanwhile, California taxpayers foot billions in legal costs for numerous trials and appeals."
- The Merced Sun-Star: "California voters should support Proposition 34 and end the charade of the death penalty as a method of ultimate punishment in our state. This position should not be construed as any form of sympathy for these criminals nor mercy towards them. Peterson, Stayner and their counterparts on death row have been convicted of brutal, unspeakable crimes and deserve the harshest possible punishment. The reality of the situation, however, is that none will likely face their death at the hands of the state anytime soon."
- The Modesto Bee:
- The Redding Record Searchlight: "Many Californians, for moral or ethical reasons, oppose the death penalty. We do not. The 727 inmates on California's Death Row have committed appalling crimes — murders sinister, vicious and cold-blooded. They have no business in human society. And a sentence of death is entirely just. Unfortunately, California does not have the death penalty. Not in reality. It has a sham of a system that sentences the worst murderers to die, but first runs through a circle of legal appeals so costly and slow that the condemned are more likely to die of old age or at their own hand than in the execution chamber at San Quentin."
- The Sacramento Bee: "In November, California voters will have a chance, through Proposition 34, to end the death penalty and replace it with a system of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. We urge you to vote for it. While capital punishment remains popular in California, polls suggest that a majority of those surveyed would accept ending the death penalty if it were replaced with a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Numerous longtime supporters of capital punishment have concluded our system can't be fixed and are supporting Proposition 34 because of it. Like The Bee, they want California's justice system to be honest with its citizens and with the victims of crime. The current system is anything but."
- The San Bernardino Sun: "California's death penalty, for all practical purposes, is not a death penalty. It is a costly sentence that sucks up millions of dollars in public funds to support a special class of inmates who are more likely to die of old age than from lethal injection. It does not provide justice in any form."
- The San Francisco Bay Guardian: "The cost of implementing the death penalty since it was restored in California in 1978 exceeds $4 billion — about $308 million for each of the 13 people the state has killed. So: California could hire 5,000 more teachers for every inmate strapped into a gurney and pumped full of lethal drugs."
- The San Francisco Chronicle: "California's death penalty has not satisfied anyone since it was reinstated 35 years ago. Those who are morally opposed to capital punishment decry the 13 lives taken by the state. Those who believe the death penalty brings justice and closure are frustrated that the average time between sentence and execution is 25 years."
- The San Gabriel Valley Tribune: "It is a system broken beyond repair and should be ended, once and for all, and replaced with an efficient and harsh punishment: life in prison without the possibility of parole."
- The San Jose Mercury News: "Prop. 34 would end the racial and class imbalances that make capital punishment in California and other states unfair and inequitable. And most importantly it would end once and for all the possibility of an innocent person being executed."
- The Vallejo Times-Herald: "Never mind moral arguments; The death penalty simply doesn't work. Since it was reinstated in 1978, California has spent $4 billion on just 13 executions. We are no safer."
- The Ventura County Star: "But this way, at least there would be the certainty that heinous killers will die in prison, instead of making victims' families suffer for decades in California's grotesque charade about executions that probably won't occur at all."
"No on 34"
- The Fresno Bee: "Supporters of Proposition 34, which would abolish the death penalty in California, maintain that the state's system of capital punishment is too flawed and expensive to continue. We agree that the death penalty is flawed and the almost unlimited appeals make it very expensive. But instead of throwing out the death penalty, let's fix the problems in how it is administered. We oppose Prop. 34 on the Nov. 6 ballot, and believe that the appeals process doesn't have to be long and burdensome to ensure that an innocent person isn't executed."
- The Orange County Register: "If prison without possibility of parole becomes the toughest penalty, then a slippery slope could develop in which lesser penalties could be imposed for heinous crimes. Eventually, we could end up like Norway, where Anders Behring Breivik murdered 69 people last year and was given that country's harshest penalty, 21 years in prison."
- The Press-Enterprise: "Californians should not throw away a useful tool simply because it is temporarily broken. The state should fix and improve the death penalty, not jettison it."
- The Victorville Daily Press: "Voting yes for Prop. 34 would be one more step toward the Europeanization of California, which is probably the state closest to becoming a clone of most European countries. The only real bar to our joining the European Union is geography; on most other societal issues — unions, environmentalism, a socialistic form of government, taxation — we seem to be a member of the United States in name only."
- See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted from September 17-23, 2012.
|Date of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided||Number polled|
|September 17-23, 2012||USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times||38%||51%||11%||1,504|
|October 7-9, 2012||SurveyUSA||32%||48%||20%||700|
|October 7-10, 2012||California Business Roundtable||42.9%||48.1%||9.0%||830|
|October 15-21||USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times||42%||45%||13%||1,504|
|October 21-28, 2012||California Business Roundtable||41.3%||47.9%||10.8%||2,115|
|October 17-30, 2012||Field Poll||45%||38%||17%||1,912|
A Los Angeles Times poll conducted from October 15 - October 21 found that 45% of voters were in favor of the proposition and 42% were opposed when voters heard about "the financial ramifications and details of [Prop. 34's] effect on prisoners."
Path to the ballot
- See also: California signature requirements
- Jeanne Woodford submitted a letter requesting a ballot title on August 29, 2011.
- The ballot title and ballot summary was issued by the Attorney General of California's office on October 20, 2011.
- 504,760 valid signatures were required for qualification purposes.
- The 150-day circulation deadline was March 19, 2012.
- Supporters of the initiative submitted approximately 800,000 signatures to county election officials on March 1, 2012.
- On April 23, 2012, the California Secretary of State announced that Proposition 34 had qualified for the November 6, 2012 ballot.
Cost of signature collection:
The cost of collecting the signatures to qualify Proposition 34 for the ballot came to $1,418,122.
The signature vendor was Kimball Petition Management.
- See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012
Superior Court Case
Supporters of Proposition 34 filed a lawsuit in Superior Court of Sacramento County seeking to change Proposition 34's official ballot title. Their lawsuit was rejected by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley.
Opponents of Proposition 34 filed a lawsuit asking that part of the ballot argument in favor of Proposition 34 that was submitted by its supporters be changed in the official voter guide. This lawsuit was successful. Proposition 34 supporters wanted to say in their argument that Proposition 34 would "redirect" $100 million in general fund money to law enforcement from the savings that would be generated by the elimination of capital punishment. Superior Court Judge Frawley, however, agreed with Proposition 34 opponents that if $100 million were to be allocated out of the state's general fund money, this would be "unrelated to ... any savings achieved by Propostion 34." With that in mind, Frawley ordered the California Secretary of State to change the wording in that part of the argument from "redirect" to "direct."
- Complete November 6, 2012 official voter guide
- Ballot title, summary and LAO analysis of Proposition 34
- Arguments for and against Proposition 34 in the official state voter guide
- Letter requesting a ballot title for Initiative 11-0035
- Living Voters Guide to Proposition 34
- Proposition 34, an overview prepared by the League of Women Voters of California
- Proposition 34 on Voter's Edge
- Proposition 34 Cheatsheet from KCET
- Proposition 34 on California Choices (sponsored by Next 10, IGS at UC Berkeley, the UC San Diego Political Science Department, the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford, and the Center for CA Studies at Sac State)
- Proposition 34 at the California Voter Foundation
- Safe California, the website of the organization leading the support for Proposition 34
- "Yes on 34" on Facebook
- "Yes on 34" on Twitter
- Campaign finance reports for the "Yes on Prop 34" committee (1341187)
- Campaign finance reports for the "Committee in Support of the Safe California Act/ACLU of Northern California" committee (1344843)
- The "No on 34" website
- "No on 34" on Facebook
- "No on 34" on Twitter
- Campaign finance reports for "Californians for Justice and Public Safety, No on Proposition 34" (1346266)
- Campaign finance reports for "Public Safety First - Keep the Death Penalty, Sponsored by the California Public Safety Institute" (1345802)
- Campaign finance reports for "Justice California/No on Proposition 34" (1345752)
- Proposition 34 would end the death penalty in California if approved in November
- L.A. Judge Says No to Executions; Study Shows Death Penalty Will Cost State Billions
- Official title and summary of Proposition 34
- Los Angeles Times, "California death penalty foes to try for ballot initiative", August 26, 2011
- Sacramento Bee, "Calif. death penalty ban qualifies for Nov. ballot", April 23, 2012
- Los Angeles Times, "Measure that would end death penalty in California qualifies for ballot", April 24, 2012
- NBC Los Angeles, "Death Penalty Critics Seek Repeal", October 26, 2011
- Press-Enterprise, "Bishop urges support for ballot proposals", February 10, 2012
- Enhanced Online News, "CA Catholic Bishops Salute “SAFE California” Campaign; Group Collects 800,000 Signatures for Death Penalty Replacement in November", March 1, 2012
- Walnut Patch, "Democratic Party Picks State Ballot Measures to Support", July 30, 2012
- Sacramento Bee, "Viewpoints: Death penalty in California does not make us any safer", Apr. 24, 2012
- Safe California, "Lorrain Taylor"
- utsandiego.com, "Death penalty is not justice", Apr. 25, 2012
- Daily News Los Angeles, "Don Heller: A California Republican against death penalty", Sep. 18, 2011
- Los Angeles Times, "Death penalty costs California $184 million a year, study says", Jun. 20, 2011
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Ex-justice who supports death penalty backs measure to abolish it", August 2, 2012
- Walnut Creek Patch, "California Republicans Oppose Proposed Tax Measures", August 12, 2012
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Death penalty measure's accuracy upheld", August 12, 2012
- The Daily Democrat, "Rich and famous back campaign to abolish death penalty", September 22, 2012
- Sacramento Bee, "Judge upholds rulings in CA death penalty ballot wording", August 10, 2012
- Bay Area Reporter, "Editorial: State ballot measures", September 20, 2012
- Contra Costa Times, "Summary of our endorsements on state propositions", September 22, 2012
- Daily Democrat, "Democrat endorsements: Propositions", October 14, 2012
- Lompoc Record, "Big changes for crime, punishment", October 12, 2012
- Long Beach Press Telegram, "No to the death penalty -- Put California's costly and ineffective system to rest by voting yes on Proposition 34", October 10, 2012
- Los Angeles Daily News, "Endorsement: No to the death penalty -- Put California's costly and ineffective system to rest by voting yes on Proposition 34", October 10, 2012
- Los Angeles Times, "Yes on the SAFE California Act", May 21, 2012
- Marin Independent Journal, "Editorial: IJ's endorsements for state Propositions 34-37", October 12, 2012
- Merced Sun-Star, "Our View: Yes on 34 to end the death-penalty game", October 18, 2012
- Modesto Bee, "Yes on 34; End the Charade", October 19, 2012
- Redding Record Searchlight, "Editorial: Prop. 34 would end costly sham of death penalty", September 27, 2012
- Sacramento Bee, "Editorial: Time to end the fiction of California's death penalty", September 9, 2012
- San Bernardino Sun, "Proposition 34: Death penalty costly, doesn't work; end it", October 10, 2012
- San Francisco Bay Guardian, "Endorsements 2012: State ballot measures", October 3, 2012
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Editorial: Chronicle recommends", October 5, 2012
- San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "Yes on Prop. 34: Put costly, ineffective death penalty system to rest", October 10, 2012
- San Jose Mercury News, "Yes on 34 will end charade", September 27, 2012
- Vallejo Times-Herald, "The death penalty: A flawed system we can't afford to keep", October 7, 2012
- Ventura County Star, "Editorial: Yes on Prop. 34; death penalty in state is broken", September 21, 2012
- Fresno Bee, "EDITORIAL: Prop. 34 is wrong way to go on death penalty", October 25, 2012
- Orange County Register, "Editorial: No on Prop. 34 (repeal of death penalty)", September 24, 2012
- Press-Enterprise, "No on 34", October 2, 2012
- Victorville Daily Press, "Prop. 34: No", November 2, 2012
- Los Angeles Times, "Californians back change on three strikes, but not on death penalty", September 30, 2012
- Los Angeles Times, "Support for end to California death penalty surges", October 26, 2012
- Safe California, "We have submitted 799,589 signatures to replace the death penalty!", March 1, 2012
- California Secretary of State, "Fifth Measure Qualifies for November California Ballot", April 23, 2012