California voters rejected Prop 34, which would have repealed the death penalty and retroactively replaced it with a life sentence without parole for convicts already on death row. Analysts estimated that the proposition would have saved the state of California at least $130 million because the costs associated with capital cases would cease.
With 98.5 percent of precincts reporting, the movement to abolish capital punishment gained just 47.3 percent of the vote.
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti was a prominent supporter of Prop 34, and at a celebration party hosted by the LA County Democratic Party Tuesday night, Garcetti had been optimistic about its chances. Still, no matter what the outcome, Garcetti was happy that the issue had made it to the ballot.
"The legislature wouldn't pick up the ball to put it on the ballot, so 800,000 people did," said Garcetti to The Huffington Post. "That says a lot."
He also noted that Prop 34 sparked debate about the role of capital punishment in California's legal system. "It's the first time that we've had an intelligent discussion about the death penalty," said Garcetti. "How much does it cost? Does it deter? What is the purpose? Are there innocent people who are on death row? Those are the issues that are being brought to the electorate for the first time."
Indeed, one California man who was exonerated while on death row became the face of Prop 34. Franky Carrillo, who spent 20 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, cast his first vote since being released on Tuesday. His story was featured on Prop 34 commercials that ran in the week before election day.
Support for Prop 34 surged in the final weeks of the campaign season, but not enough to guarantee a victory, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Currently, California leads the nation in inmates awaiting the death penalty, with at least 727 people on death row, notes the Times.