Cops & Courts
What ending the death penalty means for inmates
California Proposition 34, on the ballot this November, would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole. The Attorney Donald Heller originally wrote the ballot measure that reinstated the death penalty in California in 1978. Heller now supports Proposition 34.
San Quentin inmate Troy Williams interviewed Heller by phone about his change of heart.
TROY WILLIAMS: I have talked with several people on death row and this subject came up a while ago. Their concern was that if the death penalty goes away then so will the advocacy that helps to fight to get them not only just off of death row, but out of prison. Also, I have read reports that there is still a belief that some innocent people have been convicted and may sit on death row now.
ATTORNEY DONALD HELLER: The point raised as to losing appellate representation if death penalty is eliminated and the cases of death row are converted to life without parole – I don't think that is going to be an issue because as long as we have lawyers who practice criminal appellate law, we will have a strong group of appellate advocates that will do the very best thing for their client on appeal. With life without parole, I think what will occur is that there will be as much habeas corpus litigation over issues. And if something occurs while the person's alive, you may be able to overturn that conviction. But certainly, if someone is executed, there is no chance, no possibility of remedying a horrible wrong and an injustice.
Click the audio player above to listen to the complete interview.