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With Prop 66 blocked by California Supreme Court, the death penalty debate continues

A gurney in Huntsville, Texas, where prisoners are executed. The death penalty was at the Supreme Court again Wednesday.
A gurney in Huntsville, Texas, where prisoners are executed. The death penalty was at the Supreme Court again Wednesday.
Pat Sullivan/AP

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Last month, California voters approved a proposition that would limit appeals by inmates on Death Row.

Now, Proposition 66 has been put on hold by the California Supreme Court.

Alexei Koseff has been following this for the Sacramento Bee.

He spoke with Take Two's Libby Denkmann for more.

On what led to Proposition 66

There's been a lot of frustration for a long time because California has the largest death row in the country, but we've only ever executed 13 people. And opponents of the process have been fighting it for years. They've challenged the lethal injection protocol in court, they've tried multiple times to overturn it through the ballot box and supporters of the death penalty finally said, 'You know what? We're gonna take the same tactic. We're gonna go straight to the voters and we're gonna put forth a  proposal that we think will finally get things moving again in California.'

On why the California Supreme Court halted the voter measure

There's no denying that Proposition 66 was a very complex measure. It dealt with how to house inmates, the appeals process with introduced timelines changing the rules for which types of lawyers can represent inmates, so there's a lot in there and as a result, people were undecided about this until very close to the election. If you look up polling, nearly half of voters remained undecided even just a few weeks before the election. It is possible that people didn't quite know what to make of this and just decided at the last minute that 'Well, I support the idea of the death penalty so I'm just going to vote for this.'

Why proponents of Prop 66 have reason to be optimistic

I think there's definitely frustration because they have been fighting against these efforts to abolish the death penalty for decades now at every turn. At every turn, they have defeated measures to overturn it and now, here they've presented their own proposition to speed it up and won. And it's already in the courts being put on hold. That said, I think they're cautiously optimistic that it will be upheld and it will eventually be instituted.

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue media player above.