Group Including Former NFL Star Seeks to Reform Death Penalty

Community leaders, victims, and elected officials came together Friday to announce new efforts to reform and reinstate the death penalty in California, despite expected opposition.

The governor, attorney general and Democrats in the state legislature all oppose the death penalty in the state of California. Since 2006, no executions have been carried out because state and federal courts barred the state from using its three-drug lethal injection protocol, the only proposed method of execution.

This means that more than 700 convicted men and women sit on death row, but the state of California doesn't have a legal way of carrying out their sentences. No substantial action has been taken to move their executions forward.

This group hopes to address the issue with the injection policy, while also reforming the lengthy appeals process.

"We made a commitment to the public," said San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos. "We made a commitment that we would fix the death penalty. That is something that we owe the citizens of the state of California, the murdered victims, and the victims' families."

Among the speakers at the news conference was Kermit Alexander, a former defensive back in the NFL who lost his mother, sister, and two nephews when a gunman broke into the Alexander's home and murdered them in 1984.

That gunman remains on death row, despite a death sentence.

"We've been waiting over 30 years for justice," said Alexander. "I am terribly, terribly disappointed in our system of justice."

California's Administrative Procedures Act requires state agencies to consider alternatives to its earlier three-drug lethal injection and justify why their choices are the best option. When the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation failed to do so, the protocol was barred. No alternative protocol has been introduced, and so no one has been executed.

Across the country, it has become increasingly difficult for state officials to administer lethal injections because medical professionals are refusing to participate, and because drug manufacturers do not want their medicines used for the executions.

This group's planned proposal will not be unopposed. A campaign sponsored by actor Mike Farrell is expected to attempt to abolish the death penalty altogether, though they have not yet announced when they will be going to voters for signatures.

Jeanne Woodford, the former director of advocacy group Death Penalty Focus, a group committed to the abolition of the death penalty, said "Why would we spend all this money and time trying to execute someone who has already been caught? ... The threat they pose has been eliminated."

"California officials should be looking at the chaos in the few southern states, like Oklahoma, where they are still trying to carry out the death penalty," said David Crawford, the director of Community Outreach and Education at Death Penalty Focus. "The system is broken beyond repair and needs to be replaced with life in prison without parole. We need to stop kidding ourselves by thinking this is a system that can be fixed."

This campaign to reform the death penalty has 180 days to get 350,000 signatures to get their initiative on the ballot, and they hope to start their efforts by Christmas.

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