Death row inmates oppose death penalty ban

Nov. 2, 2012 at 9:38 AM
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SACRAMENTO, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- A California initiative to ban the death penalty is opposed by some inmates of death row as well as police officers, say advocates on both sides of the issue.

Proposition 34, which will be voted on next week, would replace the death penalty with life without parole, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Central to the opposition to the proposition is the change death row inmates would see in their access to legal assistance.

While they would still be able to appeal their convictions in state court with taxpayer-funded lawyers, the appellate courts could only consider evidence presented in the initial trial. Lawyers could not introduce new evidence that might be heard in federal courts once appeals are exhausted in state courts.

Inmates awaiting execution would rather take the chance of being executed than lose their lawyers, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty found in an informal survey of death row inmates.

California has only executed 13 prisoners since 1978, so if Prop 34 passes, the cases for death row inmates will be treated differently, said Don Spector director of California's Prison Law office, who personally opposes the measure.

David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston, has represented capital defendants for 30 years. He's opposed to the ballot measure because the chance of being executed in a California prison, no matter how low, was preferable to "taking 700 people at once and saying they are going to die of old age in prison."

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