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 Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, left, is greeted by Catholic chaplain Jesuit Father George Williams, right, at the gates of San Quentin Sta

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California bishops support death penalty repeal initiative
July 15th, 2016
By Christina Gray

California Catholic bishops announced their support July 14 for Proposition 62, a voter initiative on the November ballot that would repeal the death penalty.


The bishops timed their statement to coincide with the launch of the Yes on 62 campaign at a Los Angeles press conference. Speakers included former death penalty advocates, victims’ families, law enforcement officials, faith leaders and wrongfully-convicted former death row prisoners.


“During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we, the Catholic Bishops of California support Proposition 62 which would end the use of the death penalty in California,” the bishops said.  Proposition 62—called “The Justice That Works” initiative by its authors—would replace the death penalty with life without possibility of parole and would require convicted murderers to work and pay restitution to their victims’ families. The bishops also announced their opposition to Proposition 66, which would expedite executions in California.


“All life is sacred – innocent or flawed – just as Jesus Christ taught us and demonstrated repeatedly throughout his ministry … Each of us holds an inherent worth derived from being created in God’s own image. Each of us has a duty to love this divine image imprinted on every person,” the statement said. 


If approved by voters, California would become the 20th state to ban the death penalty. The initiative faces a divided electorate. In 2012, California voters defeated Proposition 34, a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty, 52-48 percent.  With 747 people on death row, California has the largest population of death row inmates in the nation. It would save $150 million a year by halting the practice, according to the Yes on 62 website. However, no one has been executed in California since 2006 due to court battles centered on the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” over the use of lethal injection and the decades-long wait from sentencing to execution. The existing law was approved by voters in 1978.


The bishops said their opposition to the death penalty is also rooted in “our unshakeable resolve to accompany and support all victims of crime” for whom the suffering over the loss of a loved one due to a criminal act rarely ends with the execution of the convicted.


“Their enduring anguish is not addressed by the state-sanctioned perpetuation of the culture of death,” they said. “As we pray with them and mourn with them we must also stress that the current use of the death penalty does not promote healing. It only brings more violence to a world that has too much violence already.”


Beth Webb, the sister of a woman gunned down by her ex-husband in a Seal Beach hair salon with eight others in 2011 said as much as one of nine speakers at the press conference. “I’m here to say that neither me nor my Mom will find closure in the death of another human being,” she said. “That makes us like him. For us to want his blood, to say that we will only be satisfied by his death brings us to his level.”


 Speakers at the Yes on 62 campaign launch included former death penalty proponents Ron Briggs, who led the campaign to bring the death penalty to California in 1978, former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, and former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti.



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