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Sister Helen Prejean, Church Leaders Urge Passage Of Prop 34

A dozen San Diego religious leaders joined the author of "Dead Man Walking" in a movement to repeal the death penalty.

A dozen ministers from Christian, Jewish and Islamic congregations gathered on a patio of the First Methodist Church in Mission Valley. They all urged their faithful to vote for Proposition 34 to repeal the death penalty.

The star of the gathering was Helen Prejean, a jocular Louisiana nun who has stood with six men at their executions. She is best know for writing the book "Dead Man Walking," which was made into a movie. She said California can set a national example by banning capital punishment.

“California is going to be a beacon on the hill,” she said. “Proposition 34 is going to be a decisive vote in this state, where people get to vote for life, which is where their hearts are anyway.”

Prop 34 would replace the death penalty with a life sentence, without the possibility of parole.

The religious leaders spoke of how the death penalty violates the sanctity of life and the promise of redemption. Since 1978, 900 people have been placed on death row in California but only 14 have been executed.

But supporters of the death penalty, like Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, say the death penalty must be fixed but not abolished.

“Proposition 34, if passed, will create more victims and will allow the most heinous of criminals to avoid the sanction that they justly earned,” he said.

Jones spoke before a joint Legislative Committee. His comments were broadcast on the California Channel.

A Field Poll from late last month shows 42 percent of likely voters favor Proposition 34, while 45 percent would vote to keep the death penalty. The remaining people were undecided.

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