California Death Penalty Hangs On (Barely)

Witness room facing the execution chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville,Ohio


By a narrow 52.7%-47.3% margin, California voters have chosen to retain their state’s death penalty.  This represents a 19% decline in support for capital punishment from the 1978 referendum that enacted the current death penalty law. At that time 71% voted for the death penalty.

The need to end the killing of prisoners and redirect resources in a more useful way (like investigating the 46% of murders that go unsolved in California each year) brought together a wide array of advocates, from human rights and civil liberties groups like Amnesty International and the ACLU, to murder victim family members, to death row exonerees, to a former warden of San Quentin and former top proponents of the 1978 ballot initiative.

As Rose Seward, who survived an attack from a serial killer who killed 5 other women, wrote just two days before the vote: “How can we say with credibility that murder is abhorrent, an abomination, and then turn around and commit the act ourselves?


Will The Election Decide What Is Considered ‘Torture’?

torture protest washington dc

© Shawn Duffy

Yesterday The New York Times published a story with the headline “Election May Decide When Interrogation Amounts to Torture.” It compares and contrasts President Obama and Governor Romney on torture.

While there are a number of points in the article one could address—for example, the claim that techniques approved in the Army Field Manual are “nonabusive”—the bigger picture is this:

  • U.S. torture was, and continues to be, about systemic institutional failures, including an over emphasis on domestic political values at the expense of international standards, and the failure to end impunity and lack of remedy for past abuses.