The death penalty may be getting too expensive for cash-strapped California.  According to an examination by a Federal Judge and a Loyola Law School professor, California spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since 1978, yet carried out only 13 executions.

The findings come from 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Arthur Alarcon and Professor Paula Mitchell. 

The death penalty was reinstated in 1978.  But next week Oakland State Senator Lonnie Hancock will begin the process of overturning capital punishment. 

“It leads to years of very drawn out, very expensive litigation.  So, the victims’ families can never get the closure,” said Hancock.

714 death row inmates cost the state $184 million a year; and estimates from the study suggest eliminating executions would save $9 billion by 2030.  That’s the kind of money that could pay for more police officers, fund schools and pay for programs like welfare to work, Hancock says.

“It’s a toothless dog and nobody fears a toothless dog,” said former Sacramento County Sheriff turned radio host, John McGinness, he went on to say criminals don’t fear the death penalty. 

“Old age is the leading cause of death on death row.  And, the taxpayers are spending extraordinary amounts of money to keep people alive on death row,” said McGinness.

Sentences would be reduced to life in prison without parole.  That’s a deterrent says national child advocate Mark Lunsford.  His 9-year-old daughter Jessica Lunsford was murdered by a repeat sex offender in Florida in 2005.  Today the little girl is the face of “Jessica’s Law.”  

Lunsford talked to FOX40’s John Lobertini during a weekend stop in Sacramento.  ”You tell these guys we’re going to give you 25 years to life for raping a child, I mean that’s a deterrent.”

But tell that to victim’s families, like that of Laci Peterson who sought the death penalty when Scott Peterson went on trial for his wife’s murder. 

Legislative action is just step one.  California voters would have to weigh in; and a ballot initiative probably won’t be ready until November of 2012.

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