Death Penalty

California Leads the Nation in Wrongful Convictions - I Would Know

By Franky Carrillo

A new project at UC Berkeley Law School, the California Wrongful Convictions Project, has been studying the problem of innocent people in California convicted of crimes they did not commit, and they've just released their findings. I wish I could say I was shocked by what they found.

California currently leads the nation in wrongful convictions. With more than 200 innocent people locked up for crimes they did not commit since 1989, and 123 exonerations, California exceeds every other state in the US when it comes to this dubious distinction.

This came as no surprise to me. I was one of those 200 innocent people.

Prop 34: Ensure That California Never Makes an Irreversible Mistake

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.

Time To Kill The Death Penalty?

By John J. Donohue
National Bureau of Economic Research

Forty years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia struck down the death penalty on the ground that it was applied in an arbitrary manner. Four years later, the Supreme Court accepted the constitutionality of “new and improved” death penalty statutes that were supposed to eliminate the defects condemned in Furman. In bringing back the death penalty in 1976, the Court also cited studies suggesting that executions save lives.   

Four decades later, there is plenty of evidence that the death penalty continues to be applied in an unfair manner and not a shred of evidence that the death penalty deters.

Let The Voters Decide: Death Penalty or Life in Prison Without The Possibility of Parole

By Jeanne Woodford
Death Penalty Focus

This November, California voters will make history as they decide -- for the first time ever -- between the death penalty and life in prison without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment for murder.

There’s only one problem: prosecutors throughout the state are still seeking the death penalty. In fact, the AP just reported that five new people have been sent to death row this year.

Innocent & Executed: It Could Have Been Me

By Franky Carrillo

Texas executed an innocent man in 1989. That is the stunning conclusion of Los Tocayos Carlos, a groundbreaking article published Monday in The Columbia Human Rights Law Review. As Los Tocayos Carlos meticulously documents, Carlos De Luna was wrongfully convicted and executed for a crime he did not commit.

The news shook me to my core. It could have been me.

I was wrongfully convicted when I was 16 years old and served 20 years in prison before proving my innocence. That mistake took two decades from me; but it took Carlos De Luna’s life.

As I’ve read about the tragic story of Carlos’ death, I’m struck by the parallels between our two lives. Carlos and I could have been brothers -- we come from similar backgrounds and we were both caught up in a criminal justice system that seemed stacked against us as poor young men. But the similarities go deeper.

Replacing the Death Penalty: From Connecticut to California

By Natasha Minsker
SAFE California Campaign

Last week, the Connecticut Assembly voted to replace the death penalty with life without parole as maximum punishment for murder in that state. Governor Dannel Malloy has already pledged to sign the bill into law. Once he does, Connecticut will be the 17th state to turn from the death penalty in the United States.

This is great news for the people of Connecticut. They’ve plugged a major drain on state resources and have freed up funding for effective public safety solutions.

When Murder Gets Personal

By Deldelp Medina
California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

When my aunt was murdered by her own son, my cousin Manuel, the local DA pushed for a death sentence against my family's wishes. I know what it’s like when a DA just doesn’t listen.

Now, District Attorneys are turning a deaf ear on California voters. Even though SAFE California submitted more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, each and every day, 58 District Attorneys continue to wield the power of death sentences in every county across California.

That’s why I’m speaking out to urge every California District Attorney to stop seeking death sentences until voters can decide for themselves this November.

11 Stories That Are Making History

By Jeanne Woodford
Death Penalty Focus

On March 1st, I participated in one of four simultaneous press conferences held across California to announce that the SAFE California Campaign would be on the November 2012 ballot. As the official proponent of the SAFE California Act, I was proud to present the 800,000 voter signatures collected by SAFE California volunteers and signature gatherers -- well above the 504,000 minimum required to qualify. (You can thank those volunteers – and everyone responsible for this achievement – using  our online thank you card.)

The occasion was truly momentous -- next November will mark the first time ever in the state’s history that voters will have the chance to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

California's Death Penalty Law: It Simply Does Not Work

By Ron Briggs
Board of Supervisors in El Dorado County

In 1977, my dad, former state Sen. John Briggs, my brother-in-law and I got together to discuss California's death penalty. We agreed it was ineffective and decided a ballot initiative was needed to expand the number of murder categories eligible for capital punishment. We felt such changes would give prosecutors better tools for meting out just punishments, and that a broadened statute would serve as a warning to all California evildoers that the state would deliver swift and final justice.

We thought we were creating a national model for capital punishment.

Take It From Two Judges: California’s Death Penalty Is Broken

By Judge LaDoris H. Cordell (retired)
Santa Clara County Superior Court

On Wednesday and the day before, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye slammed California’s dysfunctional death penalty before the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board.

I couldn’t agree more.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye is the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. That makes her the current leader of our state justice system. So, people across the state sit up and take notice when she says the status quo on the death penalty is the "worst possible option" and that we must consider whether we are willing to “put our money where our will is.”