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Voters retain death penalty in Calif.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP) — The death penalty remains on the books in California after residents there defeated an initiative to replace it with life imprisonment without parole.

Prop. 34 lost by a margin of nearly 6 percentage points, with 52.8 percent of voters defeating the measure, according to the California Department of State. In the end, 4,776,815 voted against the measure; 4,269,535 for it.

The measure would have applied retroactively to the 727 inmates currently on death row in California, lessening their sentences to life without parole, and would have given $100 million to police agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases.

Executions in California have been on hold for seven years, delayed by ongoing legal challenges to the state’s use of lethal injection. The state has executed 13 inmates since reinstituting capital punishment in 1978.

Eugene Curry, pastor of First Baptist Church in Granada Hills, Calif., who will become pastor of Park Hill Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., in mid-November, said he hopes California will move forward in reforming its use of the death penalty.

“It seems that, even in left-leaning California, a majority of voters feel that only capital punishment can adequately redress certain very serious crimes … despite the practical difficulties associated with the death penalty in our state,” Curry said. “Given this prevailing view, hopefully the legislature will work to streamline the process, ensuring that justice can be administered in a way that is both reliable and expedient.”

Proponents of Prop. 34 raised more than $7 million to bankroll efforts to end the death penalty, saying its implementation was flawed and expensive. Its repeal, they said, would have saved the state $1 billion within five years.

But opponents of the measure promoted repairing the death penalty by instituting single-drug executions, reducing the cost of appeals and discontinuing the costly practice of housing death row inmates in single cells at San Quentin. They say less than 2 percent of all convicted murderers in the state are sentenced to death.

California remains one of 34 U.S. states retaining the death penalty, after a high of 38 in 1995, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Just last month, a federal appeals court overturned the 1978 death sentence of condemned killer Douglas Stankewitz, the state’s longest serving death row inmate, according to news reports.

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention 2000 annual meeting, in a resolution, supported “the fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death” and urged that “capital punishment be administered only when the pursuit of truth and justice result in clear and overwhelming evidence of guilt.”

Expressing a “deep reverence for human life,” a “profound respect for the rights of individuals” and “respect for the law,” messengers urged that “capital punishment be applied as justly and as fairly as possible without undue delay, without reference to the race, class, or status of the guilty.”
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).