Death penalty to get up or down vote from California voters

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Come November, California voters can decide whether lawmakers should switch out the state’s death penalty for life in prison without parole. Supporters of the SAFE California Act have gathered more than the 500,000 signatures they need to place the measure on the ballot — almost 300,000 more.

“799,589 signatures," said L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti after checking his text messages for the latest petition update. "That’s incredible. That is incredible.”

It will become the first statewide vote of its kind.

Garcetti joined backers of the measure at a downtown L.A. news conference. He said the initiative will make good use of money the death penalty squanders.

“We will save, every year, $184 million," according to Garcetti. "A tiny portion of that, $10 million for three years, will be given directly to law enforcement agencies to investigate unsolved murder and rape cases.”

The plan would require murder convicts to work and pay restitution into a victims’ compensation fund. Critics of the measure maintain that the death penalty deters crime. According to them, getting rid of capital punishment would dismiss the concerns of victims’ families.

Garcetti sees it differently.

“We want to be sure that there is punishment and that this person does not commit any other crime," said the former district attorney. "The way you do that is, you put them in prison forever, until they die.”

Most death row convicts will die of natural causes, Garcetti said, so why waste the money?

More than 5,000 volunteers helped gather signatures in all 58 counties of the state to place the SAFE California Act on the November ballot.

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