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Victims endorse SAFE California Act to replace death penalty

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More than 400 families of murder victims have endorsed the SAFE California Act, an initiative that will be on the November ballot to replace the death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole. At a June 27 event in Los Angeles, several victims shared their own experiences with California’s death penalty and their reasons for supporting the Savings, Accountability, Full Enforcement (SAFE) California Act. In support, Archbishop José Gomez has appointed a committee to strategize on how to educate Catholics about the initiative that will save the state $1 billion in five years, according to advocates.Under SAFE, inmates currently on death row will be required to work and pay restitution to the victim’s compensation fund. A SAFE California Fund will also be created, which will set aside $30-$100 million per year for three years to solve more rape and murder cases.About 46 percent of murders and 56 percent of reported rapes go unsolved in California each year, as opposed to $184 million spent during that time to keep inmates living in special single-cell units, assisted by special lawyers.In addition, experts have concluded that there is serious risk that innocent people may be executed in California. A total of 140 innocent people have been exonerated nationwide after being sentenced to death. Bethany Webb, Jennifer Rose Steward and Toni MacDonald, are among the victims who have endorsed the initiative.Webb’s sister Laura was murdered in the Seal Beach Salon massacre last October. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in the case, but Webb said, “I and my family know that the death penalty will subject us to decades of painful court proceedings and cost the state millions. As a victim, I think that money should be used to help victims and bring justice to more families.”Steward survived a brutal assault by a serial killer who was convicted of raping and murdering five women. Over the course of seven years, she testified against him three times, including two trials resulting in death sentences. He has been on death row for more than 20 years. “I was committed to doing everything I had to do to make sure he never hurt another person,” Steward said. “I survived a brutal assault only to be further victimized by the criminal justice system. I support the SAFE California Act because it puts the focus and the money where it needs to be, on catching thousands of murders and rapists who now go free.”Toni MacDonald’s son, Reserve Police Officer James MacDonald and his partner, Officer Kevin Burrell, were killed in the line of duty in Compton on Feb. 22, 1993. Their killer has been on death row for nearly 20 years. In a statement, MacDonald said, “In my heart, I believe the death penalty is too easy. To live in a small cell day after day, knowing this is how you will spend the rest of your life and be forced to work, to me, that is true punishment. Give them life without possibility of parole and use the money for the places that really need it, schools and police.” For more information about SAFE, visit www.safecalifornia.org.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0706/deathpen/{/gallery}

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