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Briggs cites progress in death penalty vote

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From page A1 | November 16, 2012 |

Even though the proposition to repeal the death penalty was turned down by California voters, local proponent Supervisor Ron Briggs said he is elated by the outcome.

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An active supporter of the proposition, Briggs said, “the vote on Tuesday took away any question of’ if the death penalty would be eliminated, but when.

“A year ago those supporting the death penalty were at 63-64 percent and now they are at 52-53 percent. The campaign in the last year has knocked down those in support of the death penalty and I think it’s a tremendous victory actually.”

Proposition 34 would have replaced the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. Statewide, 47 percent of Californians voted for Proposition 34 while 53 percent voted no. Locally, 65 percent of El Dorado County residents voted against it.

Briggs thought that the reason the measure didn’t pass was because the target group for the Proposition received a confused message.

He said those leading the Proposition 34 campaign had identified Latino women as the target group for the measure because they were largely undecided.

However at the same time Proposition 34 proponents were pushing to repeal the death penalty, President Obama was targeting the same group of voters in his claim to have killed Osama Bin Laden.

“He was targeting vengeance and confused the target market by stressing that he killed Bin Laden. He was wrapping himself in the flag and that confused voters.”

Briggs said the campaign against the death penalty would continue. “When you’ve got 47 percent support, that’s a win,” he said. “We just need to spend more money and press harder and it will be repealed. We’ll come back and do it again, probably in two years.”

Briggs has a long family history with the death penalty for it was his father, former state Sen. John Briggs, who is credited with rewriting the laws governing the death penalty.

Passed by voters in 1978, the law increased the penalties for first and second degree murder, expanded the special circumstance categories that required the death penalty, and redefined the law related to mitigating and aggravating circumstances. At the time, Sen. Briggs and his son thought they were creating a national model for capital punishment.

However, in the intervening years, Ron Briggs said he has had a change of heart after seeing the human and financial cost of the death penalty and now favors life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for those deemed eligible for the penalty.

To date the state has spent $4 billion on the death penalty and has only executed 13 inmates since 1978, at a cost of about $307 million per execution. Legal fees and retrials account for much of that cost.

According to figures from the Yes on 34 campaign, there are currently 726 people on death row in California.

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or dhodson@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

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