By Maura Dolan,
Los Angeles Times
The campaign to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole has launched radio and television advertisements, depicting capital punishment as a futile exercise that costs taxpayers and coddles criminals.
With only days left before the election, the Proposition 34 campaign is spending more than $2 million on ads that will air in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Polls suggest the measure has been struggling but gaining ground.
“Do you know we have the death penalty in California?” actor Edward James Olmos asks in a radio spot for Proposition 34. “You might not, because we almost never use it.”
The ads emphasize how few inmates are executed — 13 since 1978 — and suggest the money would be better used for schools and crime fighting. California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has said the state could save as much as $130 million a year if the death penalty is abolished.
“Death row inmates get special legal teams that work for them, but they don’t work or pay 1 cent to the victim’s families, like other inmates do,” Olmos says. “They just sit in private cells, watching TV.”
The campaign’s television ad focuses on Francisco “Franky” Carrillo, who served 20 years in prison for a murder he said he did not commit. A judge overturned his conviction and released him last year.
“It took 20 years to prove he was innocent,” Olmos said, in English and Spanish ads. “With the death penalty, we always risk executing an innocent person.”
Proposition 34 would commute the death sentences of the state’s more than 725 condemned inmates to life with no possibility of parole.
The inmates would be merged into the general prison population in double cells and be expected to work and pay into victim restitution funds, the sponsors say.
Opponents of the measure are fighting back, emailing “fact sheets,” holding news conferences up and down the state and putting their position on mailed slate cards. The opposition has raised less than $1 million, but a campaign spokesman said media advertisements remain under consideration.
Peter DeMarco, a strategist for the No on 34 campaign, said it has relied on prosecutors, police and crime victims to get out its message.