Stories

Don Heller

Don’s Story

I have been a Republican for many years. I wrote the ballot initiative that reinstated the death penalty in California in 1978. I believe those who commit willful and intentional murder should be locked up and severely punished in the interest of public safety.

I made a terrible mistake 33 years ago, but it is one that can be corrected by replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

I have not gone soft on crime. I believe that public safety is one of the primary purposes of a government predicated on the rule of law.

But the death penalty initiative that I drafted was drawn up without fiscal study, input from others, or committee hearings. I made sure that the legal structure that I created would meet tough constitutional standards and checked my work against relevant U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence. But there was none of the give and take envisioned by our forefathers when they created the legislative process more than 200 years ago. Essentially, I wrote alone and the fiscal impact was never considered by the sponsors or myself.

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