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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…

Pennsylvania's death penalty exists in name only

Last week Gov. Ed Rendell signed 3 more death warrants, but don't expect the inmates to be executed any time soon.

Rendell, a death penalty supporter, has signed 113 execution warrants during his 2 terms. But it appears highly likely he will leave office in a little over 4 months without seeing any of them carried out.

Since Pennsylvania reinstated the death penalty in the 1970s, only 3 men have been put to death, and all had given up their appeals. The state's last contested execution occurred in 1962, even though the commonwealth currently has about 215 men and 5 women awaiting execution, including 50 who were sentenced back in the 1980s.

Despite the lack of executions and the continual flow of inmates sentenced to death by county courts, the number of inmates awaiting capital punishment is on a gradual decline.

At one point the Corrections Department housed nearly 250 condemned inmates, but their ranks have been thinned by appeals court and trial court reversals, resentencings to life in prison and deaths by natural causes and suicide.

But Pennsylvania still has the 4th-largest death row in the nation.

Source: Associated Press, August 28, 2010

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