I want you to know that I have taken a leave of absence as President of DPF in order to investigate the possibility of an initiative campaign to end the use of state killing in California next year. To that end, last month I filed a proposed ballot initiative entitled The Justice That Works Act of 2016. This is a very exciting prospect, but it will take a lot of work before it’s clear we can launch a full-dress campaign. Happily, I received heartfelt endorsement and support from across the country in response to the filing, including some generous financial commitments.
Though I am the official Proponent of this measure, a great many dedicated people who have been working toward abolition for decades are with me. Led by Death Penalty Focus, we are organizing a great team: Professionals and volunteers, consultants and pollsters, attorneys, death penalty scholars, religious leaders, people from across the political spectrum, and scores of dedicated abolitionists.
I believe the time is right to bring the matter back to the voters. As abolitionists we have to continue the fight to end the death penalty. The number of lives at stake on California’s death row compels it. Pope Francis’ recent condemnation of the death penalty is sure to rededicate Catholics and all people of faith to end state killing throughout the country and it’s up to us to build on the growing momentum to do so.
We’ve done a sober and realistic assessment of the likelihood of success in 2016, including polling voters and analyzing the challenge of raising the necessary financial support. We’ve developed a strategy that involves key political leaders, law enforcement, faith-based and victims’ groups, and exonerees. If we build a strong base of support and continue to poll well, elected officials may even be persuaded to support repeal.
If we continue to raise the funding needed to mount a strong campaign, we can abolish state killing in California. We feel the enormous presence of the 749 men and women on California’s death row and must do all we can to spare them and anyone who may yet be sentenced to death. If abolition is ever to come about it will be through a collective and multi-faceted attack on capital punishment—from the courtroom to the classroom, from legislation to public education, from the soap box to the ballot box—and there is a role for all to play.
I am deeply grateful to be part of this movement and I thank each of you for all you have done and will continue to do to end state killing. You have our support and, going forward, we very much appreciate yours.
Mike Farrell, Proponent
The Justice that Works Act of 2016