SACRAMENTO (CN) – District attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs claim in court that language in the Proposition 34 ballot measure, which would repeal the state’s death penalty, falsely suggests that the law would save taxpayers more than $100 million.
California District Attorneys Association President Carl Adams and the district attorneys of Los Angeles, Sacramento and Fresno Counties sued Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Attorney General Kamala Harris and two other state officials, in Superior Court.
The presidents of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, the State Sheriff’s Association and the California Police Chiefs Association filed a similar complaint in the same court.
Citations in this story come from the district attorneys’ complaint. It states: “The Title and Summary contains the following biased, false and misleading statement: ‘Directs $100 million to law enforcement agencies for investigations of homicide and rape cases.’ This statement is false and misleading because it fails to inform voters that this $100 million would result from a transfer of existing funds from the State’s General Fund.”
The complaint states: “Proposition 34 is a measure to terminate the death penalty as a punishment, and to modify the sentences of the persons already sentenced to death to life without possibility of parole. Proposition 34 also appropriates $100 million from the state general fund for a discretionary fund, the SAFE California Fund, for the Attorney General’s distribution to law enforcement agencies.”
The plaintiffs say the word “appropriates” in the previous sentence it misleading.
“As the impartial summary prepared by the Legislative Analyst’s Office points out, the predicted $100 million ‘savings’ is only approximate, may be off by tens of millions of dollars, and does not all accrue to the State General Fund (since many of the supposed savings, in trial costs, accrue to local governments),” the complaint states.
The district attorney want the ballot description changed, to read: “‘Appropriates [or transfers] $100 million to law enforcement agencies for investigations of homicide and rape cases.'”
Prosecutors also challenges another statement in the ballot pamphlet: “‘States that persons found guilty of murder must work while in prison as prescribed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, with their wages subject to deductions to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them wages subject to deductions to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them.’
“This statement is biased, false and misleading because, as the legislative analyst’s impartial analysis states, Proposition 34 does not change existing prison regulations that allow prisoners who are security risks to be excepted from existing work requirements.”
The district attorneys also want to change the ballot title, to state: “‘Repeals death penalty, replacing it with life imprisonment without parole.'”
The prosecutors are represented by Charles Bell, with Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk. The police chiefs and sheriffs are represented by the same firm.
Also named as defendants are Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and interim State Printer Kevin Hannah.