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Death penalty author to argue for its abolition

An author of California’s death-penalty law as it exists today will testify for its abolition tomorrow, an East Bay lawmaker announced.

Don HellerDon Heller, a former prosecutor who authored the successful Proposition 7 of 1978 to broaden the capital punishment California had just reinstated the previous year, will testify to the Assembly Public Safety Committee in favor of SB 490, state Sen. Loni Hancock’s bill to abolish the state’s death penalty. The bill would convert the sentences of all those now on California’s death row to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Witnesses previously scheduled to testify for the bill include Hancock, D-Berkeley, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee as well as the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Corrections; Judy Kerr, sister of a murder victim and spokeswoman for California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; and Death Penalty Focus Executive Director Jeanne Woodford, who as San Quentin State Prison’s warden oversaw four executions before becoming director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Among those scheduled to testify against the bill are Crime Victims United of California lobbyist Dawn Sanders-Koepke and a representative from the California District Attorneys Association.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.