The lethal injection table at San Quentin Prison, California
The Field Poll has been querying Californians on the death penalty for more than 50 years, and in 2011 there was a notable shift. Although 68% of respondents said they were in favor of keeping capital punishment, a percentage that had fluctuated only slightly since 2002, the answers grew more interesting when the question was phrased a different way. Asked whether they would rather sentence killers to life without parole or the death penalty, a significant majority of Californians in 2011 said they preferred the former — 48% favored life imprisonment vs. 40% for state-sponsored execution. Since the poll started asking this question in 2000, death had always trumped a life-in-prison sentence.
Proposition 34 would have done precisely what voters in 2011 said they wanted, resentencing the 726 death row inmates to life without the possibility of parole and eliminating capital punishment as an option in future cases. Yet the initiative lost, 52.8% to 47.2%.
The Times goes on to lament (sine the Times Editorial Board supported Proposition 34) that it is just a matter of time before death penalty abolitionists win.
I am not so sure.
Here is Gallup Polling on the matter.
There have been too many heinous crimes in California and there is no incentive to give leniency to those already on Death Row. The fiscal argument may sway a few, but when Californians are reminded of the horrendous crimes, they will support the death penalty.
Now, if we can only convince the federal and state courts to speed up and streamline the process of appeals. And, allow the California Department of Corrections to enforce the law.