Slim Majority Votes to Keep California’s Death Penalty

TCADP would like to thank everyone who supported the Yes on 34/SAFE Campaign to replace California’s death penalty by calling voters, reaching out to friends, and posting information on social media.  It was an amazing collective effort for our movement! This morning, with 98.5% of the precincts partially reporting, it appears that a small majority has voted to keep California’s death penalty. TCADP’s press release appears below.  You can also find initial analysis here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 7, 2012

CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, Executive Director
512-441-1808 (office); 512-552-5948 (cell)
khoule@tcadp.org

CALIFORNIA RETAINS DEATH PENALTY BUT INITIATIVEDEMONSTRATES SHARP DECLINE IN SUPPORT

Close Vote Regarding Repeal Part of National Movement Away from Capital Punishment

Austin, Texas – On November 6, 2012, California’s Proposition 34, an initiative to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole and divert savings to the investigation of unsolved rape and murder cases, was narrowly defeated by a vote of 53% to 47%. Although a majority of voters chose to retain the death penalty, the percent of voters supporting repeal represents a dramatic shift away from capital punishment.

“The results of the referendum in California clearly indicate that an increasing number of voters have changed their minds on the death penalty,” said Kristin Houlé, the Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP). “Texans should follow California’s lead and give our own costly, arbitrary, and error-prone death penalty serious reconsideration.”

The vote on Proposition 34, which indicates that only 53% of voters in California are in favor of keeping the death penalty, follows a broader trend of eroding public support for capital punishment. By contrast, the 1978 ballot initiative that enacted the state’s death penalty statute passed with the support of 71% of the voters. In 1986, California Chief Justice Rose Bird was removed from office by 67% of voters because she was perceived as blocking the death penalty.

Nationally, support for the death penalty in the Gallup Poll dropped from 80% in 1994 to only 61% in 2011.  Moreover, when respondents are given alternatives such as life without parole, support for the death penalty falls below 50%.

California’s use of the death penalty has declined in recent years. Death sentences in California dropped from 40 in 1981 to 10 in 2011. Similarly, new death sentences in Texas have dropped 70% since 2003 and remained at a historical low level in 2011, with just 8 new death sentences imposed statewide.

This declining use of the death penalty is in line with broader national and state trends:

  • Last year, new death sentences nationwide dropped to 78, representing a dramatic 75% decline since 1996, when 315 individuals were sentenced to death. It was the first time since 1976 that the country produced fewer than 100 death sentences in a single year.
  • Executions have steadily decreased around the country.  There were 43 executions in 2011 and 46 in 2010. This marks a 56% decline since 1999, when there were 98. Last year, Texas carried out the fewest executions since 1996; it accounts for 12 executions out of 36 nationwide as of November 7, 2012.
  • 141 people have been exonerated from death rows nationwide, including 12 in Texas, due to evidence of their wrongful conviction.
  • In recent years, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New York and New Jersey abandoned the death penalty.

For information about the death penalty in Texas, contact TCADP Executive Director Kristin Houlé at 512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948 (cell) or khoule@tcadp.org.

For more information about Proposition 34, contact Erin Mellon at erin@safecalifornia.org or 650-793-3696.

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is a statewide grassroots advocacy organization dedicated solely to ending the death penalty in Texas. Visit www.tcadp.org for more information.

 

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