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The Latest: Court skeptical over death penalty deadlines

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Latest on arguments before the California Supreme Court over the constitutionality of a voter-approved measure to speed up executions (all times local):

1:05 p.m.

California Supreme Court justices expressed skepticism about a ballot measure that would speed up executions by forcing courts to meet deadlines for hearing death sentence appeals.

Justices spent most of an hour-long hearing Tuesday focused on the provision of Proposition 66 that would require death penalty appeals to be heard within five years. Currently it can take more than two decades.

Jose Alfonso Zelidon-Zepeda of the attorney general’s office says the ultimate goal is to meet that deadline, but he conceded it’s not enforceable.

Justice Goodwin Liu referred to the provision as aspirational and questioned how the state courts were supposed to reorganize the system to make it work.

Attorney Christina Von der Ahe Rayburn challenged the measure approved in November, saying it made a promise to voters that is impossible to achieve.

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12:27 a.m.

The California Supreme Court is set to hear arguments over whether to block a voter-approved measure to speed up executions.

The court is hearing a case Tuesday in Los Angeles brought by death penalty foes after voters approved Proposition 66 in November.

Capital punishment opponents say the so-called reforms would disrupt courts, cost more money and undermine appeals.

Supporters of the measure have called the case a frivolous stall tactic that would maintain a dysfunctional system that hasn’t executed an inmate in more than a decade.

The ballot initiative would appoint more appellate lawyers, assign some cases to trial judges and set a five-year deadline to complete state appeals.

The ballot measure passed with 51 percent support. A competing measure to repeal capital punishment lost by a slightly wider margin.

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