Sunday, December 04, 2016

4.3 - Update: death penalty passes in state initiatives

Update: death penalty passes in state initiatives

Finally, a couple of weeks ago I ran down some good outcomes from the election, most of them involving state-level initiative campaigns by local activists. I had examples of victories on the minimum wage, gun control, and campaign finance, among a couple of others.

The Update here is that unhappily, there was one other big winner in such initiatives on election night: death. Or, to be more precise, the death penalty.

A total of four ballot initiatives relating to the death penalty were on the ballot in three states: two in California and one each in Nebraska and Oklahoma. In all four cases, death won.

The California case involved one initiative, Proposition 62, which would outright ban the death penalty, lost by 54-46. It was the second time in four years that Californians rejected a measure to abolish capital punishment.

Meanwhile, Proposition 66, according to its proponents, would hasten official murders by limiting the time and opportunity for appeals. It likely won't because it is so poorly and confusingly written - besides raising questions about illegal interference with the jurisdiction of state courts - that it is already facing legal challenges that could take years to work through. Nonetheless, it squeaked through 51-49.

In Nebraska, the state legislature had passed a ban on capital punishment over the veto of death-eater Gov. Pete Ricketts. Ricketts - who, by way, is CEO of Ameritrade - dumped $200,000 of his own money into what proved to be a successful initiative campaign to undo the legislative action.

Finally, Oklahoma, the state that has become the poster child for the failures of the system, pockmarked with convictions based on little or no evidence, botched executions, and shocking incompetence and deceit among officials, easily passed an amendment to the state constitution saying that no matter the means of execution, the death penalty is not cruel or unusual punishment.

The silver lining in all this is that it comes against a background of a slow but pretty steady decline in the use of capital punishment in the US. California, for example, has not had an execution in nearly 11 years. The number of executions per year keeps dropping as does the number of new death sentences.

And according to both Gallup and Pew Research, while public support for the death penalty remains pretty high, in the range of 55 to 60 percent, that figure also marks a 40-year-low.

Unhappily, the death penalty remains and unhappily, it remains popular. But happily it is slowly being put the death it itself deserves.

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