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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Kansas: Legislature to consider end to death penalty

Kansas will consider abolishing the death penalty next year as death sentences are declining across the United States.

Fewer people were sentenced to death this year than any other year since 1976, according to a report released Friday by the Death Penalty Information Center.

The report cites 106 new death sentences handed down in 2009, compared to 111 in 2008. Both are down significantly from a decade ago, when 284 death sentences were given out.

Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, has scheduled four days of hearings beginning Jan. 19 on a new bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Kansas.

A Kansas Judicial Council advisory committee of lawmakers, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers helped rewrite a bill sponsored last year by Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.

But Kansas' top prosecutor said this week he wants to see the death penalty continue.

"I think it's a just punishment for what those folks did," Attorney General Steve Six told The Eagle.

Read more here.

Source: The Wichita Eagle, Kansas.com, December 19, 2009

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