Councilman Gil Cedillo. Photo by John Schreiber.
Councilman Gil Cedillo. Photo by John Schreiber.

Councilman Gil Cedillo is making a push for a measure on Tuesday’s ballot that would repeal the death penalty in California, calling it an “archaic” practice that is costly to the state and ineffective.

The City Council recently approved two resolutions authored by Cedillo, one of which puts the city on record as supporting Proposition 62, which would replace the death penalty with a lifelong prison sentence without possibility of parole.

In the second resolution, the council declared its opposition to another death penalty measure, Proposition 66, which would speed up the execution process.

The resolutions — both authored by Cedillo — were signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti this week.

Cedillo called on “the people of Los Angeles and California to get rid of an archaic death penalty system that does not work and costs taxpayers an exorbitant amount every year.”

“The polls indicate that people are still divided over this issue,” he said. “I urge Californians to ask themselves whether it’s worth investing in a broken system that’s cost us $5 billion.”

Prop 62 would apply retroactively to people already sentenced to death, and would require prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for murder to work while in prison.

Passage of the initiative would result in a net reduction in state and local government costs of potentially around $150 million annually within a few years, according to an analysis conducted by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance.

During a City Hall news conference, Cedillo said he is “proud the city has taken a position against the death penalty” and appealed to voters to vote down Proposition 66, which he called “a reckless counter-measure” that “jeopardizes more innocent lives and the loss of more money for the state.”

Cedillo was joined by 42-year-old Franky Carrillo, a resident of Echo Park who said he was sentenced to life in prison after being wrongfully accused in 1991 of murdering a man in Lynwood. He was exonerated of the crime 20 years later with the help of a private law firm and the Innocence Project.

Carrillo said the legal system “failed me, and I was wrongfully convicted,” but that he was lucky to have “good people came to my rescue — good lawyers, good advocates.”

Former “M*A*S*H” star Mike Farrell, a longtime advocate of ending the death penalty, said that had Carrillo been convicted as an adult, he might have been executed before he had the chance to get his name cleared.

“We have a (death penalty) system that is broken … and it is irreparable,” Farrell said.

Supporters of Proposition 66, including Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, differ with Cedillo and Farrell on how to fix the “broken” death penalty system.

“We agree California’s current death penalty system is broken,” but they contend in a ballot argument that “the most heinous criminals sit on death row for 30 years, with endless appeals delaying justice and costing taxpayers hundreds of millions.

It does not need to be this way. The solution is to mend, not end, California’s death penalty,” they wrote.

Proposition 66 proposes to direct initial death-sentence appeals to a superior court judge and limit the number of successive appeals. It would also establish a timeline for appeals, widen the field of appointed attorneys to handle death penalty appeals, and authorize the transfer of death row inmates among state prisons.

The last execution carried out in California was in 2006. Executions have been put on hold because of a 9th Circuit ruling requiring a medical professional to administer lethal injection drugs.

In the event both measures are approved by voters, the measure with more yes votes would go into effect.

A measure to repeal the death penalty on the November 2012 ballot was rejected by a 52 percent-48 percent margin.

—City News Service

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