Proposition 195
Death Penalty Proposition: Carjacking

The information below was provided by the California Journal.

Background: In the run-up to his 1994 re-election campaign, Governor Pete Wilson unveiled a tough-on-crime legislative package, which included making drive-by shooting and carjacking murders eligible for the death penalty. The year was a good one for crime bills, most of which passed easily in the wake of the hugely popular three-strikes law. But the several death-penalty bills died in the Assembly Public Safety Committee. The atmosphere changed halfway through 1995, when Assembly Republicans finally were able to turn their election victories into majorities on policy committees. A more conservative committee passed the death-penalty measures out with little trouble. The Legislature as a whole sent the bills to the governor with a substantial majority vote, but both must be ratified by a vote of the people before becoming law. Under state law, murder is ordinarily punished by a 25-years-to-life sentence, with the possibility of parole. To be eligible for the death penalty, the killing must have taken place in conjunction with one of a list of special circumstances such as robbery, rape or arson.

Proposal: Proposition 195 adds carjacking kidnapping in the course of a carjacking and the retaliatory murder of a juror to the list of special circumstances that make a defendant eligible for the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole. The measure is in part redundant, since prosecutors currently may charge carjackers and kidnap-carjackers with the existing special circumstances of robbery or kidnapping. The state legislative analyst estimates only minor additional state costs, due to this overlap and the infrequency of juror murders.

Arguments for: A long list of law-enforcement groups, crime victims' organizations, Governor Wilson and tough-on-crime legislators point to the death penalty as a needed deterrent to these crimes. They note that every other "felony murder" category -- in which someone kills a bystander while committing another crime -- is included on the state's list of special circumstances, and this measure would bring the two categories into conformity. The murder of a juror belongs in the same category as the murders of witnesses, prosecutors or judges, which already qualify for capital punishment, they say.

Arguments against: Opponents, including the Northern California Episcopal Diocese, several other church groups and liberal advocacy organizations, say the death penalty is an ineffective deterrent to murder and other violent crimes. The resources that go into prosecuting and litigating such cases are high, they note, and would be more efficiently spent addressing crime prevention rather than further ratcheting up penalties. They point out that the provisions of this measure are largely cosmetic, since prosecutors can already seek the death penalty for carjackers and kidnap-carjack killers under existing law.

For additional information please see:

Secretary of State Ballot Pamphlet

Campaign Finance Data from the Secretary of State

Original Legislation

California State Senate Office of Research

California League of Women Voters

Easy Reader Voter Guide

Related News Articles

Campaign Web Sites:

Home | About This Guide | Search