Death Row Inmates Oppose Calif. Execution Ban

Because it would give them less access to paid-for lawyers
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2012 11:30 AM CDT
Death Row Inmates Oppose Calif. Execution Ban
This January 1996 file photo provided by the California Department of Corrections shows the entrance to the execution chamber and the lethal injection table at California's San Quentin State Prison.   (AP Photo/California Department of Corrections)

Contrary to what you might expect, most inmates on California's death row are against Proposition 34, a measure up for vote next week that would ax the death penalty in favor of life without parole. The Los Angeles Times takes a look at their seemingly surprising stance. Considering the state has executed only 13 people in the last 34 years, "the death penalty in California is mostly life without parole anyway," says the head of California's Prison Law Office. What would change, if the measure passes, is the inmates' access to lawyers.

While they would still be provided with a state-paid lawyer to handle any appeal, they would, with very few exceptions, no longer be assigned lawyers tasked with filing habeas corpus petitions, which highlight evidence not aired in trial court. "If you are thinking you are going to get your conviction overturned, you certainly have a better chance if you are sentenced to death rather than life because you are provided with more legal assistance," says the director of a group against the measure. Another such group surveyed San Quentin's death row inmates and heard from 50 of them; only four backed Proposition 34. (More death row stories.)

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