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Death Penalty Opponents File Suit to Thwart California’s Prop. 66

On November 9, 2016, death penalty opponents led by former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp and former El Dorado County supervisor Ron Briggs filed a lawsuit challenging Proposition 66, which had been approved by voters just a day earlier.

Prop. 66 is an initiative intended to speed up executions, but the suit claims it would cause “confusion and upheaval” in the courts, interfere with judicial authority, and force both courts and attorneys into hurried and less-reliable decisions in capital cases. Prop. 66 passed with a slim 50.9% majority while voters rejected a competing initiative, Prop. 62, which would have made life without parole the mandatory sentence for capital murder, effectively repealing the death penalty in California.

The prosecutor-sponsored Prop. 66 contains provisions that require the state Supreme Court to rule on death penalty appeals within five years of sentencing. Another provision requires criminal defense attorneys to take on capital cases as well as non-capital cases if they accept court appointments. The initiative also eliminates administrative review of single-drug execution protocols.

“Proposition 66 was passed by the voters because they are sick of lawyers who oppose the death penalty constantly undermining the system with lawsuit after lawsuit,” said McGregor Scott, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California and co-chair of the Yes on Prop 66 campaign.

There are currently around 750 prisoners on California’s death row; since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977, only 13 people have been executed in the state.


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