Death penalty supporters change stance, fight to ban sentence

11:17 AM, Mar 2, 2012   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - The original authors and supporters of California's death penalty law said they now oppose the death penalty.

They've launched a campaign to put a measure on this year's November ballot to ban the death penalty and replace it with life without parole sentences.

"We thought we were creating a system of safety and savings and instead what we ended up doing was creating a fiscal monster that costs about four billion dollars over the last 30 years," One of the creators of the California death penalty Ron Briggs said.

Once in favor of the death penalty, Briggs said the system is way too costly. The state spends almost three times more on housing death row inmates than they do general population or life without parole inmates.

Some argue death row inmates are given more benefits than general population inmates. They get their own cell, they get 24 hour a day phone access to call their lawyer, and they get more visitation rights with their attorneys.

Don Heller, one of the original authors, said he now regrets drafting the law. He worries about sending innocent people to their death. He knows of at least one Californian, Tommy Thompson, that he believes was mistakenly executed.

"So I think Tommy Thompson was executed and Tommy Thompson was innocent under the law I wrote," Heller said. "And that has stayed with me since 1998 that I participated in the execution of an innocent man."

The campaign said they've collected enough signatures to make it onto this year's November ballot. They delivered their list of signatures to the Secretary of State's Office Thursday.


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