Prop 66 is a Risky Experiment

Law professor Justin Brooks weighed in on the folly of Prop 66 in the San Diego Union Tribune.  Calling it a “risky experiment,” Brooks implored readers to vote no on Prop 66.

Innocents Lost

Brooks recounts the heartbreaking saga of Bill Richards, who was sentenced to death, and served 23 years, for a crime he did not commit.  It took repeated efforts and dogged determination, but eventually Richards was exonerated. But “death row exonerations can take decades to achieve,” with “seven of the 10 most recent death row exonerations across the United States occurr[ing] 25 years or more after the innocent person was sentenced to death.”

If Bill Richards had been sentenced to death and Proposition 66 had been the law, he may have been executed as opposed to walking out of prison a free man.

Justin Brooks

Prop 66 makes things worse. The “opportunity to prove innocence in California may not be available to defendants sentenced to death in the future if Proposition 66 passes this November.” This is because under Prop 66, “arbitrary timelines will be established and there may not be time within those timelines to prove innocence.” Prop 66 “would also require inexperienced attorneys to represent individuals facing the death penalty, even though ineffective assistance of counsel is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.”

Taxpayers Pick Up the Tab for Risky Experiment

Beyond the cost to innocents, Prop 66 will cost taxpayers by “vastly increas[ing] criminal justice costs in California.” At the very least, “[n]onpartisan legislative analysis estimates that it will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollar,” but it will cost even more than that in “unknown” costs.  And the costs will not be evenly distributed, those counties “where most death penalty cases originate, would bear the brunt of Proposition 66’s risky experiment with justice.”  Furthermore, to process the Prop 66 appeals “would grind our already-overburdened local courts to a halt.”  Where presently death penalty appeals are heard by the California Supreme Court, Prop 66 would force local courts to hear these complex and costly appeals, diverting money and time from the rest of the justice system.

Don’t risk innocent lives or waste taxpayer funds: vote no on prop 66.