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California Proposition 34, the End the Death Penalty Initiative (2012)

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Proposition 34
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Type:State statute
Referred by:Petition signatures
Topic:Death penalty
Status:On the ballot
Proposition 34, titled by election officials as "Death Penalty. Initiative Statute", is on the November 6, 2012 ballot in California as an initiated state statute.[1]

If the state's voters approve it, Proposition 34 will eliminate the death penalty in California and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.[2]

Specifically, Proposition 34 will:

  • Repeal the death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
  • Apply retroactively to persons already sentenced to death.
  • Require 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.
  • Create a $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases.

California has 725 people on death row.[3] If the Prop. 34 is approved, their sentences will be replaced with "life in prison without the possibility of parole".[3] These prisoners will also be required to seek jobs within the prison system, and their earnings will go to crime victims.[4] Seven of the 725 people currently on death row have exhausted all appeals and are therefore eligible for execution, although legal challenges to California's lethal injection procedure must be resolved before any of them could be executed.[2] 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.[3]

California is one of 33 states that currently authorize the death penalty.[4]

The death penalty in California was judicially invalidated in the 1970s and was then reinstated via Proposition 7 in 1978. 13 inmates have been executed since then.[3]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

LIVE election results will be posted when polls close on November 6, 2012 and when numbers start to roll in.

California Proposition 34
Result not yet known  


Website logo of the "Yes on Proposition 34" campaign


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.[2]
  • 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 include:

  • H. Lee Sarokin, a retired federal judge. He says, "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'."[5]
  • Gerald Barnes, Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino.[6]
  • The California Catholic Conference of Bishops supports Proposition 34.[7]

Arguments in favor

Arguments that have been made in favor of replacing California's death penalty include:

  • 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."[3]
  • The death penalty is intrinsically wrong.
  • "Our system is broken, expensive and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake."[3]
  • “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. [10]
  • “[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 [11]
  • “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 [12]
  • “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. [13]
  • A 2011 study by former prosecutor and federal judge Arthur Alarcón indicates that California has spent approximately $4 billion to execute 13 people since the death penalty was reinstated. The Alarcón report also indicates that implementing the death penalty in California costs $184 million dollars per year more than implementing sentences of life without the possibility of parole. [14]
  • 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 says that the convicted defendants "richly deserved to die." At the same time, Moreno supports 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."[15]


Total campaign cash Invest.png
as of November 3, 2012
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $7,400,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $391,900

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 is 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 will be used for expenditures related to this particular proposition.

Donor Amount
Nicholas Pritzker $1,000,000
The Atlantic Advocacy Fund $1,000,000
ACLU (various local groups) $757,847
Nicholas McKeown $287,500
M. Quinn Delaney $275,000
Farfalla Trust $250,000
Reed Hastings $250,000
Emerson Collective $150,000
Robert Alan Eustace $125,000
Stephen M. Silberstein $125,000
Denise Foderaro $100,000
Jody Buckley $100,000
Roger Bamford $100,000
Amnesty International $91,858
Edward Redlich $85,000
Death Penalty Focus $76,200
Sarah Timberman $75,000
Asena McKeown $62,500
California State Council of Service Employees (SEIU) $62,500
BISC $54,721
California Teachers Association $50,000
K.S. Rhodes $50,000
Keith Randall $50,000
The Saul Zaentz Company $50,000
Valeta Massey $50,000


Website logo of the "No on Proposition 34" campaign


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 include:

  • McGregor Scott, a former U.S. Attorney.[3]
  • "Californians for Justice and Public Safety", a coalition formed to oppose the initiative.[3]
  • The "Criminal Justice Legal Foundation".[3]
  • Michael Ramos, San Bernardino County District Attorney
  • The California Republican Party.[16]
  • Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully. Scully is a co-chairwoman of the "No on 34" campaign.[17]

Arguments against

  • "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."[3]
  • “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 Invest.png
as of November 3, 2012
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $7,400,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $391,900
As of November 3, the "No on 34" campaign had raised about $392,000. This compares to the roughly $7.4 million raised by the "Yes on 34" campaign. McGregor Scott, a spokesperson for the campaign who is a former U.S. attorney, said, "We know we are going to be out-raised because we don't have Hollywood celebrities and liberal do-gooders on our side. Ours will be an old-fashioned, word-of-mouth, grass-roots" effort.[18]

These are the $10,000 and over donors to the "No on 34" campaign as of Saturday, November 3, 2012:

Donor Amount
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
Diane Lake $10,000

Text of measure

See also: Complete text of Proposition 34 and Ballot titles, summaries and fiscal statements for California's 2012 ballot propositions


Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.

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.[19]

Official summary

The state's official voter guide includes two summaries for each statewide ballot measure. One summary, in bullet-point format, appears in the long-form description of each measure. A shorter form of the summary appears 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 says:

  • 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.
  • States that persons found guilty of murder must work while in prison as prescribed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, with their wages subject to deductions to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them.
  • Directs $100 million to law enforcement agencies for investigations of homicide and rape cases.

The short-form (ballot label) summary for Proposition 33 says:

"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 is 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."

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statements for California's 2012 ballot propositions

(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.)

  • State and county savings related to murder trials, death penalty appeals, and corrections of about $100 million annually in the first few years, growing to about $130 million annually thereafter. This estimate could be higher or lower by tens of millions of dollars, largely depending on how the measure is implemented and the rate at which offenders would otherwise be sentenced to death and executed in the future.
  • One-time state costs totaling $100 million for grants to local law enforcement agencies to be paid over the next four years.

Editorial opinion

See also: Endorsements of California ballot measures, 2012

"Yes on 34"

2012 propositions
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June 5
Proposition 28
Proposition 29
November 6
Proposition 30
Proposition 31
Proposition 32
Proposition 33
Proposition 34
Proposition 35
Proposition 36
Proposition 37
Proposition 38
Proposition 39
Proposition 40
EndorsementsFull text
Ballot titlesFiscal impact
Local measures
  • 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."[20]
  • The Contra Costa Times: "California's death penalty is archaic, unfairly applied and fiscally insane."[21]
  • 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."[22]
  • 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."[23]
  • 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."[24]
  • The Los Angeles Daily News: "Ending this farce of a punishment would save California about $130 million a year."[25]
  • 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."[26]
  • 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."[27]
  • 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."[28]
  • The Modesto Bee:[29]
  • 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."[30]
  • 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."[31]
  • 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."[32]
  • 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."[33]
  • 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."[34]
  • 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."[35]
  • 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."[36]
  • 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."[37]
  • 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."[38]

"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."[39]
  • 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."[40]
  • 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."[41]

Polling information

See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures

A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll was conducted from September 17-23, 2012.[42]

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."[43]

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements
See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs


See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

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.[19]

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."[19]

External links

Suggest a link

Basic information:



Additional reading:


  1. Official title and summary of Proposition 34
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Los Angeles Times, "California death penalty foes to try for ballot initiative", August 26, 2011
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Sacramento Bee, "Calif. death penalty ban qualifies for Nov. ballot", April 23, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Los Angeles Times, "Measure that would end death penalty in California qualifies for ballot", April 24, 2012
  5. NBC Los Angeles, "Death Penalty Critics Seek Repeal", October 26, 2011
  6. Press-Enterprise, "Bishop urges support for ballot proposals", February 10, 2012
  7. Enhanced Online News, "CA Catholic Bishops Salute “SAFE California” Campaign; Group Collects 800,000 Signatures for Death Penalty Replacement in November", March 1, 2012
  8. Walnut Patch, "Democratic Party Picks State Ballot Measures to Support", July 30, 2012
  9. [1]
  10. Sacramento Bee, "Viewpoints: Death penalty in California does not make us any safer", Apr. 24, 2012
  11. Safe California, "Lorrain Taylor"
  12., "Death penalty is not justice", Apr. 25, 2012
  13. Daily News Los Angeles, "Don Heller: A California Republican against death penalty", Sep. 18, 2011
  14. Los Angeles Times, "Death penalty costs California $184 million a year, study says", Jun. 20, 2011
  15. San Francisco Chronicle, "Ex-justice who supports death penalty backs measure to abolish it", August 2, 2012
  16. Walnut Creek Patch, "California Republicans Oppose Proposed Tax Measures", August 12, 2012
  17. San Francisco Chronicle, "Death penalty measure's accuracy upheld", August 12, 2012
  18. The Daily Democrat, "Rich and famous back campaign to abolish death penalty", September 22, 2012
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Sacramento Bee, "Judge upholds rulings in CA death penalty ballot wording", August 10, 2012
  20. Bay Area Reporter, "Editorial: State ballot measures", September 20, 2012
  21. Contra Costa Times, "Summary of our endorsements on state propositions", September 22, 2012
  22. Daily Democrat, "Democrat endorsements: Propositions", October 14, 2012
  23. Lompoc Record, "Big changes for crime, punishment", October 12, 2012
  24. 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
  25. 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
  26. Los Angeles Times, "Yes on the SAFE California Act", May 21, 2012
  27. Marin Independent Journal, "Editorial: IJ's endorsements for state Propositions 34-37", October 12, 2012
  28. Merced Sun-Star, "Our View: Yes on 34 to end the death-penalty game", October 18, 2012
  29. Modesto Bee, "Yes on 34; End the Charade", October 19, 2012
  30. Redding Record Searchlight, "Editorial: Prop. 34 would end costly sham of death penalty", September 27, 2012
  31. Sacramento Bee, "Editorial: Time to end the fiction of California's death penalty", September 9, 2012
  32. San Bernardino Sun, "Proposition 34: Death penalty costly, doesn't work; end it", October 10, 2012
  33. San Francisco Bay Guardian, "Endorsements 2012: State ballot measures", October 3, 2012
  34. San Francisco Chronicle, "Editorial: Chronicle recommends", October 5, 2012
  35. San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "Yes on Prop. 34: Put costly, ineffective death penalty system to rest", October 10, 2012
  36. San Jose Mercury News, "Yes on 34 will end charade", September 27, 2012
  37. Vallejo Times-Herald, "The death penalty: A flawed system we can't afford to keep", October 7, 2012
  38. Ventura County Star, "Editorial: Yes on Prop. 34; death penalty in state is broken", September 21, 2012
  39. Fresno Bee, "EDITORIAL: Prop. 34 is wrong way to go on death penalty", October 25, 2012
  40. Orange County Register, "Editorial: No on Prop. 34 (repeal of death penalty)", September 24, 2012
  41. Press-Enterprise, "No on 34", October 2, 2012
  42. Los Angeles Times, "Californians back change on three strikes, but not on death penalty", September 30, 2012
  43. Los Angeles Times, "Support for end to California death penalty surges", October 26, 2012
  44. Safe California, "We have submitted 799,589 signatures to replace the death penalty!", March 1, 2012
  45. California Secretary of State, "Fifth Measure Qualifies for November California Ballot", April 23, 2012