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Supporters Of Prop 34 Say Death Penalty Is Broken And Can’t Be Fixed

Legislative committee hosts a hearing in which people debate the merits of the death penalty and of Proposition 34, which would repeal it.

— People who support and oppose the death penalty seem to agree on one thing. Capital punishment in California is dysfunctional and brings little in the way of justice to victims' families.

But they disagree on whether it can or should be fixed.

The debate over the death penalty took center stage in Sacramento yesterday as supporters and opponents debated Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty in California. A joint State Senate/Assembly committee heard testimony from opponents and supporters of the proposition, which will be on the November ballot.

The death penalty has been the law in California since being reinstated in 1978. Brian Brown, with the office of state legislative analyst, told the joint committee that since 1978 about 900 people have been condemned to death in the state. But only 14 have actually been executed.

Gil Garcetti, the former Los Angeles District Attorney, called the California death penalty an expensive farce.

"The system is broken,” he said. “It's dysfunctional and, underlying this, it cannot be fixed."

Brian Brown further testified California would likely save more than $100 million every year if the death penalty were repealed. He said the state would save the expense of maintaining death row, as well as the many years of costly court appeals that are a part of death penalty cases.

But supporters of the death penalty, and several members of the committee, were not convinced that capital punishment could not be fixed.

Democratic assemblyman Mike Gatto, from Los Angeles, said we shouldn't abolish a policy simply because state process was bogging it down with appeals and red tape.

"We're all guilty of making the system not work,” said Gatto. “And I think it's a bit disingenuous to say, Well now the system doesn't work and we have to get rid of it from a financial standpoint."

Death penalty opponents brought up the danger of executing innocent people. Supporters said California can speed up the process and make it work. All it needed, they said, was political will.

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