There’s a new bill, introduced by Assemblymembers Levine and Chiu and coauthored by Assemblymembers Friedman, Gipson, and Stone and Senator Weiner to abolish the death penalty. The bill does not include a retroactive provision to commute current death sentences to LWOP.

The bill will likely pass in the legislature, but because it requires a constitutional amendment it will be on the ballot. This does not have a history of success, as Austin Sarat explains in this book. But since 2016, when we tried this last, six big things have changed, which may improve the odds:

  1. Twenty-two states have abolished the death penalty and three have moratoria on its use. A critical mass of states can now be said to have given it up.
  2. Since the beginning of this pandemic, more people have died of COVID-19 on death row alone than we’ve executed since the death penalty was reintroduced in 1978.
  3. Because of the death penalty moratorium, we won’t be executing anyone else anytime soon – but we’re still footing the bill of death penalty litigation.
  4. The Golden State Killer got life without parole. If not him, then who?
  5. One of California’s major killer counties, L.A. County, will cease to seek death sentences under new D.A. George Gascón.
  6. The recent Trump/Barr killing spree at the federal level has disgusted and reviled millions of people.

I think these developments have altered the landscape considerably enough to merit another try at abolition.

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