The bill would replace capital punishment with life without possibility of parole. Hancock, D-Berkeley, who chairs both the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Budget subcommittee overseeing prison spending, will gut and amend her SB 490 to carry the language. It’s expected to have its first hearing at 9:30 a.m. next Tuesday, July 5, in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
If passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, the bill would still require voters’ approval as a Legislature-sponsored initiative in November 2012. That coincide with the high-turnout presidential general election; the state’s significant Democratic voter registration edge means a somewhat more liberal electorate would decide the issue.
Hancock will discuss the bill in a live interview with host Jeffrey Callison on Capitol Public Radio’s “Insight” at 10 a.m. this morning.
“Capital punishment is an expensive failure and an example of the dysfunction of our prisons,” Hancock said in a news release issued late last night. “California’s death row is the largest and most costly in the United States. It is not helping to protect our state; it is helping to bankrupt us.”
Hancock announced her legislation after the Los Angeles Times reported last week on a new study highlighting capital punishment’s high cost in California: $4 billion since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, although only 13 executions have occurred since then while the number of condemned inmates has swelled to 714. The report, “Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle,” was written by U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur Alarcon, a former prosecutor, and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell. It will be published this week in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review.