Laci Peterson's family takes stand in California's death penalty debate

California hasn't executed a death penalty inmate in more than a decade

Whether or not you're in favor of capital punishment, both sides of the debate say the system is flawed.

Two competing ballot measures going before voters this year offer distinct solutions -- repeal the death penalty, or approve an attempt to shorten the process. The latter measure, Prop. 66, speeds up the process by amending statues that allow for legal challenges, which cause California's backlog of death row executions. 

The nonpartisan Legislative Analysts Office found that accelerating the process with Prop. 66 would hit state courts with tens of millions of dollars in yearly costs, but it might also save the state prisons tens of millions of dollars each year.

Death penalty sentences can be challenged either by a direct appeal or a habeas corpus petition.

Since the death penalty became California law in 1978, 930 people have received the sentence, 15 have been executed and 103 have died while behind bars. Courts have reduced 64 sentences. 

The LAO reports Prop. 66 would:

  1. Require habeas corpus petitions first be heard in the trial courts
  2. Place time limits on legal challenges to death sentences
  3. Change the process for appointing attorneys to represent condemned inmates
  4. Make various other changes.

Modesto murderer Scott Peterson is one of the 748 death row inmates currently in state prison. In 2002, Peterson was convicted in 2004 for the murder of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner.   

"Scott Peterson murdered my daughter and his unborn child," Laci's mom Sharon Rocha said during a Thursday press conference urging the public to pass Prop. 66. 

Rocha and members of law enforcement were also pushing for a 'No' vote on the measure to repeal the death penalty, Prop. 62. Rocha said there is a possibility Peterson could be released on parole if 62 passes and his sentence is reverted to a life in prison. 

"He is there for a reason," Rocha said. 

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson took a strong stand against the repeal measure, saying it would deny victims' families justice.

"Why are we allowing the killers to continue to live their life -- all be it in prison -- or, as was previously mentioned, even the remote possibility of getting out because the proponents want to repeal the death penalty," Christianson said. "It's time for California and its citizens to stand up for justice. Justice for our victims." 

If voters approve both measures, the initiative with the most votes becomes law. 

A statewide poll conducted by the CALSPEAKS Opinion Research Center at Sacramento State found Prop. 62 was the only measure on the ballot a majority of people did not support. It fell into the survey's margin of error, while 'Yes' on Prop. 66 was up 51-20.

Copyright 2016 KXTV


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