UPDATE 5:53 p.m. -- The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday over whether a voter-approved initiative that seeks to streamline the death penalty process is unconstitutional.
Ron Briggs, a former El Dorado County Supervisor and former death penalty proponent, is suing the state in hopes of blocking Proposition 66. He says capital punishment is not an effective crime deterrent, costs the state billions of dollars and is unconstitutional.
Justices spent a lot of time during oral arguments Tuesday questioning a provision that requires death penalty appeals to be heard within five years. Right now appeals can take decades.
Plantiffs are arguing that mandate is simply not possible, while proponents counter the Supreme Court should give the measure a chance to work.
Elizabeth Semel, a UC Berkeley School of Law professor, directs the University's Death Penalty Clinic. She says there is a question of whether the proposition violates the state's separation of powers by taking away court authority.
She also says it's an important case to watch because it could affect the administration of justice.
"Because of the insistence under this initiative that cases be decided on what can only be called a rocket docket — that is at exponential speed — the court will have to crowd out decision making about many other important cases."
Prop 66 supporters say the lawsuit is frivolous and a slap in the face to the voters of California.
California’s capital punishment process has been mired in court challenges over lethal injection drugs and procedures. The state last executed a death row inmate in 2006.
The justices have 90 days to issue their ruling.
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