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California Supreme Court halts voter-approved death penalty measure

California Supreme Court halts voter-approved death penalty measure
The death chamber of the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison is seen in September 2010. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

The California Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a voter-approved measure intended to speed up the appeals process for the state's death row inmates to give it time to consider a lawsuit challenging the measure.

In a one-page decision, the court stayed the "implementation of all provisions of Proposition 66" and set a timeline for filing briefs in the case.

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Proposition 66 would change how appeals are handled, appointing more lawyers to take cases, putting certain types of appeals before trial court judges and setting a five-year deadline for appeals to be heard. Currently, it can take longer than that for an attorney to be assigned to a case and upward of 25 years to exhaust appeals.

The lawsuit by former California Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp and Ron Briggs, whose father wrote the ballot measure that expanded California's death penalty in 1978, said the reform measure would disrupt the courts, cost more money and limit the ability to mount proper appeals.

They said the deadlines would set "an inordinately short timeline for the courts to review those complex cases" and result in attorneys cutting corners in their investigations.

Supporters of the measure have called the lawsuit a frivolous stall tactic.

California voters faced two death penalty measures in the November election. They rejected a measure that would have abolished the death penalty and narrowly approved Proposition 66.

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UPDATES:

3 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the court decision.

This article was originally published at 1:50 p.m.

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