Prop 34: Ensure That California Never Makes an Irreversible Mistake

Posted on 24 October 2012

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By Franky Carrillo


It's hard to imagine it being taken away without just cause. But it happens - more often than you might think.

When I was just 16 years old, I was stripped of my freedom, wrongfully convicted of a murder I did not commit. I spent twenty years behind bars before I was finally able to prove my innocence.

But I always wonder, if I had been sentenced to death, would I have been able to prove my innocence in time?

This is why I believe so strongly in Proposition 34, which will replace California's death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole. With the election just two weeks away, it's a critical time to make sure California voters hear about the true costs of the death penalty.

Today we're launching our first Yes on 34 TV ad across the state's airwaves, urging millions of California voters to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. With this new ad, my story will travel farther than ever before - on television.

Most people can't imagine being found guilty of a crime they didn't commit. I never expected that my youth would slip away in prison after I was wrongly convicted. But with this new TV ad, millions of viewers across the state can hear my real-life story and learn that our criminal justice system is good but not perfect. I am living proof that with the death penalty we always risk the execution of an innocent person.

I am honored by the all-star team that came together to help share my story of wrongful conviction with voters - including Emmy-winner Martin Sheen, iconic actor and director Edward James Olmos, Grammy and Academy-Award winner and world-famous musician Hans Zimmer, and Lili Haydn, the "Jimi Hendrix" of violin.

And Donald Heller, the man who wrote California's death penalty law, will be sharing his story on the radio. He explains that he never considered the costs of implementing the law and now sees it as a "huge" mistake that also risks the execution of an innocent person.

Voting Yes on Proposition 34 makes sense for California. We can save $130 million every single year by replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. This money can be better spent on education and on tools that actually improve safety in our communities, like testing DNA evidence and investigating unsolved murders. We can also make sure that California never makes an irreversible mistake.

Together, on November 6th, we’ll make history.

Franky Carrillo was sentenced to prison at age 16 for a murder he did not commit and was found innocent after 20 years behind bars. He is currently an advocate for the Yes on 34 campaign.

Notice how the Yes on 34 campaign keeps talking about cases irrelevant to the debate? Their ballot argument brings up this case, which was not capital, and a case from Texas. Why don't they talk about a case relevant to the debate, a case of a person sentenced to death in California in the modern era and now known to be innocent?

Because they don't have such a case. Zero. Out of close to a thousand capital cases, they don't have a single example.

What does that tell you? California prosecutors and juries have been extremely careful. Any residual doubt of guilt is taken into account in deciding the penalty.

Randy Kraft was sentenced to death, and there is no doubt of his guilt. He was caught with the body of the last victim in his car. Should we reduce his sentence? Why? We have already paid for his trial and already paid for his direct appeal. His execution is held up by repeated appeals having nothing to do with any claim of innocence. We can do justice and save money at the same time simply by cutting off such appeals, reserving them only for cases where an actual doubt of guilt is involved.