LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Three former California governors voiced their support Thursday for a signature-gathering campaign to reform California’s death penalty system.

KNX 1070’s Margaret Carrero reports Governors George Deukemejian, Pete Wilson, and Gray Davis say “common sense” reforms could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Deukmejian, Wilson and Davis were joined by former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and members of Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings, which claims it takes an average of 12 years for a death penalty case to be heard and resolved by the California Supreme Court.

“It takes much too long to dispose of these cases,” said Deukmejian.

“All three governors believe strongly there should be a death penalty for the most heinous crimes in this state,” Davis said.

The group has launched an online petition in support of the measure, which cites a report projecting future savings “due to condemned inmates spending fewer years on death row awaiting review of their automatic appeals.”

The proposed measure (PDF) would give state appellate courts jurisdiction over death penalty appeals and impose time limits on state court death penalty reviews, which critics say can take an average of 12 years and as many as 30 years to complete.

In addition to the governors’ support, the California District Attorneys Association and Police Officer Research Association of California (PORAC) have also endorsed the initiative.

Former county District Attorney Gil Garcetti said he remains opposed to the effort, which he fears would tie up court systems statewide for the foreseeable future.

“This initiative, if it were to pass, would result in years and years of litigation and additional expenses to taxpayers, and for what reason?” Garcetti said.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office has said ending the death penalty would save the state $130 million annually, according to CBS News.

Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 63 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 23 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, six have died from other causes, according to state officials.

There are currently about 750 offenders on California’s death row, most of whom are housed at San Quentin State Prison.


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