SAN FRANCISCO—During the November election, voters faced two measures pertaining to the death penalty: Proposition 62, which would terminate the death penalty and require inmates to provide victims with an amount of their income; And Proposition 66, which would accelerate the death penalty process and ensure that criminals on Death Row would be executed.
The California Supreme Court declined the measure of Proposition 62, and are in the process of determining whether or not Proposition 66 should be implemented.
The court halted Proposition 66 appeals on Tuesday to consider a lawsuit which questions the implementation of the measure. Court officials organized this decision in a one-page petition.
There are currently 750 detainees on Death Row, and there have been no executions in the past ten years. The measure of Proposition 66 would require more lawyers to take cases, present appeals to trial court judges, and ensure that the appeals are heard within five years, the maximum duration. Currently, it can take longer than that for lawyers to receive appeals as such, and up to 25 years to complete cases.
Former Attorney General John Van de Kamp and Ron Briggs (whose father wrote the ballot measure that heightened California’s death penalty in 1978) filed the petition, arguing that the measure would obstruct the courts, limit the ability to process proper appeals, and cost more. They also asserted that the five-year deadline would not provide enough time for attorneys to thoroughly hear cases and would result in them “cutting corners in their investigation.” In addition, opponents believe that lawyers would need to put cases aside in an effort to meet such deadlines.
Proposition 66 supporters have declared the lawsuit to be a “frivolous stall tactic.”
According to ABC News, Kent Scheidegger, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, stated that the petition “Implies that they decided to hold off because there’s no harm in holding off. I think it has very little merit.”
ABC News reported that Attorney Christina Von der Ahe Rayburn, who filed the case, stated that officials will take four legal arguments into consideration while reviewing the decision. Von der Ahe Rayburn insists the measure of Proposition 66 “violates the jurisdiction of courts by having Superior Court judges handle secondary appeals over issues such as newly discovered evidence, incompetent counsel or misconduct by jurors or prosecutors.” She added that, “The court has already recognized the seriousness of the issues at play by granting a stay.”
The petition stated that the measure entailed components which were uncoupled, such as the ability to detain inmates at prisons aside from San Quentin, where Death Row is located. Another “unrelated element” (as described by death penalty opponents) was one in which inmate income would be required to be turned over to victims.
Von der Ahe Rayburn also contended that voters should not be perplexed by the “combination of popular and unpopular pieces of legislation.” The inmate restitution provision, she said, “may have been popular with voters,” but that it is unrelated to the measure’s general objective of quickening the appeal process.