Proposition 34 could end California's death penalty law

Kern County has 28 death row inmates

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -  

California’s Proposition 34 would end the death penalty and replace it with life without parole.

If it passes, Proposition 34 would commute the sentences of 725 California death row inmates to life without parole and the maximum penalty for any new murder convictions would be the same.

Kern County has 28 inmates on death row. The most recent to be sent there is Timothy Titus Rodriguez.

He was convicted of bludgeoning a woman to death in northeast Bakersfield in 2009.

"I think that when we are talking about commuting death sentences of 725 of the most vicious, heinous murderers there should be thought given to their victims and families," said Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green.     

"There are individuals that felt that the execution of the perpetrator of the crime would bring them closure and it didn't bring them the peace and the closure that they were hoping for," said Sister Marie Schroepfer of the Fresno Catholic Diocese.

No one has been put to death in California in six years because there is currently a freeze on executions in California.

In 2006, a judge ruled the three-drug cocktail used for lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment.

People in favor of Prop 34 said it will save the state money because it is cheaper to house inmates in the general population than on death row.

"The California Legislative Analysis Office has actually confirmed the millions of dollars, the egregious expenses actually, that it takes to house a death row inmate," Schroepfer said.

"The question should be: 'Can we afford justice?,'" Green said.

There is also the debate about whether the death penalty is a deterrent to criminals.

"It has not been to my knowledge been conclusive that it is a deterrent," Schroepfer said.

"There’s at least half a dozen studies that show when the death penalty is carried out it results in less murders in the next year," Green said. 

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