State Supreme Court Considers Death Penalty Prop

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(Photos: still images from California Supreme Court video feed of Tuesday's session and attorneys Kent Scheidegger, center, and Christina Von Der Ahe Rayburn, right)

The California Supreme Court heard argument Tuesday in Los Angeles on whether the passage of Proposition 66, that promised to accelerate the executions of condemned prisoners, is constitutional.

Opponents of the measure approved by voters last year have warned it could rob innocent inmates of opportunities to fully challenge the evidence and proceedings that led to their death sentences.

Attorney Christina Von Der Ahe Rayburn told the Justices the proposition also violates the separation of powers, improperly limits some courts’ jurisdiction in death cases, and the language of the measure itself is overly complicated.

“I think the only solution here is to strike this proposition and let it act as a battering ram to let the legislature try again,” Rayburn said.

Several Justices questioned whether the proposition was legally enforceable, or if the measure simply amounted to a list of voter-approved suggestions on ways the state should improve the death penalty appeals process.

“The ballot argument says that the cases should be decided within five years,” said attorney Kent Scheidegger, who argued in favor of allowing 66 to take effect. “That is a goal and I think an achievable goal.”

A ruling is expected sometime over the summer.

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