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Initiative to speed up the death penalty process qualifies for the November ballot

A death row inmate is escorted at San Quentin State Prison. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
A death row inmate is escorted at San Quentin State Prison. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

An initiative that aims to speed up executions in California qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot on Thursday, making it one of two competing measures voters will weigh on the death penalty.

The Secretary of State’s Office said it was able to verify a random sample of signatures among the more than 593,000 collected.

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, co-chair of the Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings Campaign, called it an important day for public safety and said the organization would work to kill the opposing ballot measure.

"Death row killers earned their sentences recommended by juries and imposed by judges across California," Schubert said. "Justice demands that those sentences be carried out. These killers should not be rewarded by repealing the death penalty."

Both capital punishment ballot measures would require current death row inmates to work and pay restitution to victims. One measure would keep the death penalty, while the other would replace it with life without parole .

The pro-death-penalty initiative limits the number of petitions prisoners can file to challenge their convictions and sentences, and would provide new deadlines intended to expedite appeals.

It requires attorneys appointed to the cases of indigent defendants who take non-capital appeals to accept death penalty appeals, and it exempts prison officials from the state's regulatory process for developing execution drugs.

Death penalty supporters say the measure would reform a broken system, reducing the time from conviction to execution from as long as 30 years to 10 to 15 years.

The independent Legislative Analyst's Office has estimated that the initiative could potentially provide the state tens of millions of dollars annually in correctional savings. But it could cost the state just as much annually for appeals proceedings over a period of several years, and its fiscal impact on such court expenses in the longer run is unknown.

UPDATE 6:20 p.m. This story has been updated with additional information.

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