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California Bill To Abolish Death Penalty Moves Forward

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS/AP) – A bill that would abolish the death penalty in California has advanced after its first legislative hearing.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted 5-2 on Thursday in favor of SB490, a bill introduced by state Senator Loni Hancock of Berkeley.

The bill is now headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Hancock said that since the death penalty was re-instituted in 1978, taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion on its legal expenses, but only 13 of more than 700 prisoners on death row have been executed.

“If we did that simple, sure punishment, we would save the state of California $184 million a year,” she said. “That’s money that could go to our education system, courts and public safety.”

But opponents like Harriet Salarno, who heads Crime Victims United of California, said it’s unfair to the families who have waited decades for justice.

“This is so unfair to those families of victims who have gone through the court system,” Salarno said. “These people are just going to be fed up again. What do you want to put them through, more torture?”

California has the nation’s largest death row, with 714 inmates.

If the bill is signed into law, it would be put before voters in 2012.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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