CALIFORNIA – Field Poll: Death penalty proposition support closely divided

September 25, 2012

BERKELEY, Calif.  — The results of a statewide survey conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies at University of California-Berkeley and The Field Poll were released Tuesday. The survey sought to determine prospective voting support and opposition to Proposition 34.

California’s Proposition 34 initiative would repeal California’s death penalty and make life in prison the ultimate penalty for a capital crime. It would go into effect the day after election and apply to all on death row.

More Democrats and independents support Prop. 34, while Republicans tend to oppose the proposition.

Of total likely voters, 42 percent of respondents said they would vote for Prop. 34. Forty-five percent of respondents said they would vote “no” on Prop. 34. Undecided voters made up 13 percent of likely-voter respondents.

Of likely Democratic voters responding, 50 percent said they would vote “yes” for Prop. 34, while 37 percent said they would vote “no”; 13 percent of Democrats were undecided.

Of likely Republican voters responding, 23 percent said they would vote “yes” on Prop. 34, while 65 percent would vote “no”; 12 percent were undecided.

Survey results revealed strongest support for Prop. 34 among political liberals, African-Americans, voters in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, and those who have completed post-graduate collegiate work.

The results revealed opposition is greatest among political conservatives and inland residents, particularly those in Northern California outside the Bay Area.

Currently there are more than 700 inmates on death row, the highest in the U.S. No inmate has been executed in California in five years due to a legal battle over execution procedures.

The average delay between sentencing and execution is more than 25 years.

Seventeen U.S. states have abolished the death penalty.

Data reveal public opinion moving away from the death penalty in the past 20 years nationwide and in the state. Earlier respondents believed the death penalty was less expensive than life in jail without parole.

Former supporters working to overturn the death penalty contend the penalty is a waste of money.

The official analysis by the California Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance says Prop. 34 “could” provide savings in the high tens of millions of dollars a year.

Supporters of the death penalty say that changes could be made to speed the process and reduce costs.

The death penalty has been in contention in California since the 1970s, beginning in 1972 when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional. The penalty has been halted and reinstated several times.

One comment

  1. The 729 convicted murderers on death row were convicted of brutally killing at least 1,279 people. At least 230 of them were children. 75 more were young adults between the ages of 18-20. Another 82 victims were older than 65.

    Of these victims, at least 211 of them were raped and 319 of them robbed. Sixty-six victims were killed in execution style, usually bound and shot in the back of the head. Forty-seven victims were tortured.

    Forty-three of these victims were law enforcement agents and another seven were security guards. Not included in these numbers are cases where the killer attempted to kill a police officer, but was unsuccessful, as in the case of Oswaldo Amezcua who shot three police officers.

    An important consideration in changing a killer’s sentence to life is whether he has murdered other inmates while incarcerated. Eleven death sentences were handed down after an already-incarcerated inmate murdered another inmate. Troy Ashmus had previously killed an inmate and viciously attacked a deputy while incarcerated for another crime. Joseph Barrett killed an inmate while incarcerated for having killed a teacher. Kenneth Bivert killed an inmate while already incarcerated on three counts of murder. John Capistrano had a previous conviction for killing an inmate and attacked another inmate in a holding cell. Joseph Danks was already incarcerated for six murders when he killed the inmate which led to his death sentence. Martin Drews was also serving time for murder when he killed an inmate. Similarly, Lee Capers brought a knife to court to stab one of the witnesses testifying against him.

    While the murders for which these killers were sentenced to death are horrendous, the murder victims are only a part of the trail of violence left by these killers. Many had killed others before finally being sentenced to death for their most recent killing. Others are suspected to have killed dozens more. For example, Randy Kraft is believed to have killed at least 65 other people. Another serial killer Glen Rogers was convicted of killing three other people in three other states and confessed to his sister he was responsible for more than 70 killings. Lawrence Bittaker is suspected to have raped and murdered another 30-40 victims in addition to the five for which he was sentenced to death. Charles Ng, while convicted for murdering eleven people, is suspected to have killed up to 25 people. Wesley Shermantine is believed to have killed 25 people even though only convicted for four. This year he has began leading law enforcement to more bodies. More than twenty additional murders have been attributed to Cleamon Johnson. Police suspect William Suff murdered twenty woman in addition to the twelve for which he was convicted and sentenced to death. Michael Allen is believed to have killed 12-20 more people in addition to the two he was sentenced to die for. Franklin Lynch was linked to more than thirteen additional murders. David Carpenter was believed to have killed another 7-11 victims. Anh Duong was suspected of having committed 7 murders and 15 armed robberies. Kevin Haley was suspected in seven other homicides. Dennis Webb admitted to five additional murders. Steven Homick has also been sentenced to death in Nevada for 3 murders. Malcolm Robbins admitted to or was convicted of killing four additional minors. Thus, these individuals alone are responsible for approximately another 300 murders.

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