California's Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional
Federal judge says systemic delays amount to cruel and unusual punishment
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2014 3:37 PM CDT
A 2010 file photo of the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison in California.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

(Newser) – A potentially huge ruling on the death penalty out of California: A federal judge says the state's system of capital punishment is so inept that California must stop killing inmates, period, reports NBC Bay Area. The decision by US District Judge Cormac J. Carney isn't about the ongoing controversy over lethal-injection drugs; rather, Carney says the state's death penalty amounts to cruel and unusual punishment because death-row inmates are subject to decades of uncertainty and "arbitrary" decisions about their fate, reports the Los Angeles Times. The decision has the potential to "wipe California's death penalty off the books," reports the San Jose Mercury News.

"When an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it an implicit promise from the state that it will actually be carried out," writes Carney, an appointee of George W. Bush. "But for too long now, the promise has been an empty one ... it has resulted in a system that serves no penological purpose." He points out that while 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, only 13 have been executed. “For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution." The state can appeal to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Executions in California have been on hold since 2006 anyway because of challenges to its method of lethal injection.

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Showing 3 of 181 comments
Jul 16, 2014 11:17 PM CDT
The fact that execution is barbaric and serves no practical purpose not withstanding.
Jul 16, 2014 10:13 PM CDT
its no wonder calif. is in such a state of denial your broke no one to bail you out, business is broke taxes too high prisons are packed kill some of those murders an save all that dough.
Jul 16, 2014 9:48 PM CDT
This is, in effect, an underhanded tongue-in-cheek opinion by an activist judge who'd like nothing more than to see the death penalty process expedited. If you think for one second that this guy is against the DP, think again.