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California Proposition 17 (1972)


California Proposition 17 (1972)

Proposition 17 of 1972 was a measure enacted by California voters to reintroduce the death penalty in that state. The California Supreme Court had ruled on February 17, 1972, that capital punishment was contrary to the state constitution. Proposition 17 amended the Constitution of California in order to overturn that decision. It was submitted to a referendum by means of the initiative process, and approved by voters on November 7.

The court ruled in People v. Anderson that capital punishment was contrary to Article 1, Section 6 of the state constitution,[1] which forbade "cruel or unusual punishments", and was held to be more strict than the similarly worded provision of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Proposition 17 amended the state constitution by adding Article 1, Section 27, which reads:

In 1979 it was argued before the California Supreme Court (in People v. Frierson) that Proposition 17 was unconstitutional, as it amounted to a "revision" rather than an "amendment" of the state constitution, and a revision may not be enacted by an initiative. The court rejected this argument. Justice Stanley Mosk filed a concurring opinion in which he reluctantly agreed with the judgment of the court, but also expressed his dismay at the response of the electorate to Anderson:

Despite Proposition 17 no executions were carried out in California until 1992. This was due to the Furman v. Georgia (which temporarily suspended capital punishment in the United States) and to extensive litigation that occurred thereafter.

See also


  1. ^ This provision has since moved to Article 1, Section 17.
  2. ^ The People v. Frierson
  3. ^ People v. Frierson, 25 Cal. 3d 142, 189 (1978).

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