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Repeal The Death Penalty? 6 Quotes From 'Yes' And 'No' Campaigns

Kristen Lepore | AirTalk

Voters will see two state measures that take very different approaches in changing how California handles capital punishment in November. Proposition 62 would repeal the death penalty, while Proposition 66 would aim to speed up the process. 

On Wednesday evening, we gathered a panel of six guests from all sides of the argument. They fielded questions from the audience on topics that ranged from fiscal to racial implications.

The town hall was moderated by Larry Mantle, host of KPCC’s AirTalk, and Maureen Cavanaugh, host of KPBS' Midday Edition. It was put on by California Counts, a collaboration with KPCC in Los Angeles, KQED in San Francisco, Capital Public Radio in Sacramento and KPBS in San Diego.

Here are three questions debated during the event. 

Will Proposition 66 save California money? 

There are 743 people on California’s death row. That's by far the highest number in the nation. California hasn't executed a condemned prisoner since 2006. 

Proposition 66 aims to speed up the process of the death penalty; proponents said it would save the state money because it puts time limits on court reviews and requires appellate lawyers to take death penalty clients. (Currently, there aren’t enough lawyers to handle the automatic appeals for death row inmates.)

But opponents said, even if Proposition 66 passes, it'll cost the state a nice chunk of change. Justin Brooks, director of California Innocence Project, said there's a misconception that death penalty appeals cost money; it's death penalty trials that cost a lot, he argued. 

Yes to abolishing the death penalty says

Money 

No to abolishing the death penalty says

Money 

How do families of murdered victims feel?

Two panelists at the event Wednesday have had loved ones murdered. Beth Webb's sister Laura Webb was killed with seven other people in the 2011 shooting at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach. Marc Klaas is the father of Polly Klaas. She was kidnapped and killed in 1993.

Webb said she wants her sister's killer to serve life in prison because it validates what he did. She's in favor of Proposition 62, which would make the maximum sentence life imprisonment without parole. (Current death row inmates would see their sentences changed to life in prison under the proposition.) 

Klaas, on the other hand, said his daughter's killer doesn't deserve to live. He's in favor of keeping the death penalty. 

Yes to abolishing the death penalty says

Victims 

No to abolishing the death penalty says

Victims 

What are the racial implications? 

The real question is "do we deserve to kill?" Justin Brooks argued. He said he's walked 25 innocent people out of prison. 

Mike Farrell, co-author of Proposition 62 (and a former actor best known for his role on the TV series MASH), echoed those concerns. He also brought up the issue of racial discrimination.

Paul Pfingst, former San Diego County district attorney, said race play a role in every facet of the criminal justice system. But the notion that "the people making these decisions [about death penalty sentencing] are just a bunch of racists who don't care about these things, is just unfair," he argued.

Yes to abolishing the death penalty says

Race 

No to abolishing the death penalty says

Race 

To hear the full broadcast, tune into Airtalk noon Thursday, September 8. The audio will be archived on this web post.

Where do you stand on the death penalty? Tweet us your thoughts using the hashtag #CAcounts.

Guests

Justin Brooks, executive director of the California Innocence Project

Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs

Mike Farrell, human rights activist, co-author of Prop 62, and former actor best known for his role on the TV series MASH

Paul Pfingst, former San Diego County district attorney

Beth Webb, sister of Laura Webb, who was killed along with seven other people in the 2011 shooting at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach

Marc Klaas, father of Polly Klaas, who was kidnapped and killed in 1993

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

Read more in this series and let us know your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #CACounts.