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Ballot measures

Proposition 66 hasn't been called by elections officials, but death penalty opponents are already taking it to court

 (Steve Yeater / Associated Press)
(Steve Yeater / Associated Press)

Proposition 66, which aims to speed the death penalty process in California, is still pending official approval, with election returns showing 50.9% of voters supported it.

But former state Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp and lawyer Ron Briggs, who wrote the proposition that reinstated the state's death penalty nearly 40 years ago, are already trying to block the implementation of the ballot measure's provisions.

Proposition 66, which was written by death penalty prosecutors, would require the judge who originally heard a case to hear initial petitions challenging a death penalty conviction, instead of the petitions going to California Supreme Court. It also would limit the appeals process to within five years of a death sentence. 

In a petition filed late Wednesday with the state Supreme Court, Van de Kamp and Briggs call the proposition invalid, saying it infringes on offenders' rights and impairs "the constitutional and inherent powers of the courts." Named as defendants are Gov. Jerry Brown, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and the Judicial Council, which is the policymaking body for California's courts.

Briggs said they filed the petition because the initiative is so flawed. It will thrust further burden on taxpayers, he said, and it does not provide a funding mechanism to implement the provisions. It also "cuts everyone's constitutional rights," he said. 

"The purpose of an appeal is for a fresh set of eyes to look at what occurred in a lower court," Briggs said. "What 66 is saying is we are going to keep the case in the lower court, and those same eyes that convicted the defendant are going to review the appeal. We believe that infringes on the constitution and is flat out not fair."

In a statement, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said it has been frivolous lawsuits, like the one  the opponents' filed, that have slowed down the death penalty system in the past.

"The death penalty system in California was broken, largely due to the constant wrangling and roadblocks put up by anti-death penalty lawyers and organizations," she said. "Their lawsuits are designed to undermine the system and then use the broken system to justify abolition."

1:40 p.m., Nov. 10: This article was updated with a statement from Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert on the lawsuit.

This article was originally published at 11:18 a.m.

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