Timeline: California’s death penalty

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In the November election, California voters will face two very different ballot propositions focused on the future of the death penalty in the state.

Proposition 62 would abolish California’s death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole. Proposition 62 is also retroactive, so if it passes inmates on death row would see their death sentences commuted and, instead, be sentenced to life.

Proposition 66 would limit the appeals and petitions process in capital cases and require court appointed attorneys to accept capital cases. This would speed up the appeals process and save money.

All of this means that California voters will have the opportunity to change the death penalty by speeding up the appeals process or eliminate it altogether.

Below, are some of the key dates in the history of California’s death penalty.

Timeline: California’s death penalty

1872 Capital punishment incorporated into California’s penal code

1893 First state-conducted execution at San Quentin by hanging

1937 State legislature replaces hanging with lethal gas as method of execution

1972 California Supreme Court rules capital punishment “cruel and unusual punishment,” 107 condemned inmates resentenced to life without parole

1978 California voters pass Proposition 7 reaffirming the death penalty

1993 California prisoners given choice between lethal injection or gas as mode of execution, cyanide gas subsequently barred in 1994

2006 Execution of Christopher Ray Allen, the last death row inmate executed

Death Row inmates at San Quentin. Photo: Saul Gonzalez