SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Opponents of capital punishment announced Thursday that they have gathered nearly 800,000 signatures for a November ballot initiative that would repeal the death penalty in California and replace it with life in prison without parole.

If it qualifies for the ballot, the measure would allow Californians to vote on the death penalty for the first time since they approved a 1978 initiative that reinstated and expanded capital punishment.

Former San Quentin State Prison Warden Jeanne Woodford, a supporter of the proposal, participated in a news conference outside San Francisco City Hall Thursday morning to announce the signature-gathering total.

“California voters are ready to replace the death penalty with life in prison with no chance of parole,” Woodford said.

The proposed law is called SAFE California, an acronym for Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement.

The supporters said they are confident it will qualify for the ballot because the number of signatures collected provides an ample margin for the 504,000 valid signatures needed.

Simultaneous news conferences on the initiative were held in Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego Thursday morning.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Comments:

The measure would change the death sentences of the state’s current 725 condemned inmates to life in prison without parole and eliminate capital punishment in the future.

The supporters said the measure would save $184 million per year that the state currently spends on maintaining death row and funding the inmates’ appeals, which take an average of 25 years to complete.

The initiative would allocate $100 million of that savings over a three-year period to local law enforcement agencies to investigate unsolved rapes and murders.

Retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell said, “Murder victims’ families deserve better. We will now have a chance to choose effective crime prevention over a symbolic gesture.”

The $184 million figure comes from a 2011 study by federal appeals court Judge Arthur Alarcon and law professor Paula Mitchell, who said that number is the additional cost of keeping condemned inmates on death row and funding their appeals rather than placing them in prison for life without parole.

California’s death penalty was suspended in 1972 after the U.S. and California supreme courts said the punishment was not administered in a constitutional way.

Executions were reinstated in a law passed by the Legislature in 1977 and in a 1978 voter initiative led by former state Senator John Briggs, an Orange County Republican, that expanded the application of the death penalty.

Since then, California has had 13 executions between 1992 and 2006. Executions have been on hold since 2006 because of lawsuits in federal and state courts over the state’s lethal injection procedures.

The SAFE California campaign released a statement in support of the initiative by Briggs’ son, El Dorado County Supervisor Ron Briggs.

Briggs, who spoke at the campaign’s Sacramento press conference today, said he supported the 1978 death penalty initiative, but said, “Had I known then what we do today, I would have pushed for strong life sentences without possibility of parole.”

The initiative supporters began submitting the signatures to the state’s 58 country registrars for verification and counting today.

At the end of group’s news conference at San Francisco City Hall, volunteers carried six cardboard boxes of signature petitions to the registrar’s office in the building’s basement.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (5)
  1. eight ball in the side pocket says:

    Why are these Slme balls still sucking air ? Is it because of the Liberals and there incompetent solutions and distorted views of Reality? Fire up old Sparking and lethal injection suites serve justice to the families and the citizens of the state of california. Wax 2 a day record them and play them to the penile recruites in Juvenile hall

  2. Big G says:

    Sorry Warden, not all Californians share your liberal agenda. Once that happens will let you know. You speak for yourself not for the rest of us!!! Myself, I feel more for the families & victims that were killed or affected by the murder! Seems liberal only care if some guy who killed one or more feels pain. Quit wasting taxpayers money & start executing these people. Costs & death row will go down then & we won’t have to worry about housing them for the rest of there lives.

  3. Bob Rooney says:

    50% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens . It tells a lot.
    The Congress should protect the interests of Americans, not illegals .
    Push your state representative to make a change.
    Google this: NUMBERSUSA .
    Once you are registered, go to the “action board” to send free faxes to your state representative .
    They are all typed up and ready to go, you just need to click your mouse to send.

  4. lee says:

    Corrupt California DEA where stealing drugs from evidence vaults and reselling them to cover extensive credit card debt.
    They also are creating suspects by planting evidence just so that they can steal from them.
    Given the choice of suspension or dealing with their debt most DEA are thinking outside the box.

    Executions need to be halted until after corrupt DEA employees are removed from duty.