Death Row Inmate Dies, but Not via Execution

California has only executed 13 out of hundreds of death row inmates since 1978
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2015 4:54 PM CDT
A death row inmate at San Quentin State Prison died last week. He was the 69th inmate to die of natural causes while awaiting execution since 1978.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

(Newser) – Ronald Seaton had been on death row at San Quentin State Prison for 26 years following a 1986 conviction for murder, robbery, and burglary. On Friday, he died of natural causes while awaiting execution, NBC Bay Area reports. Seaton became the 69th death row inmate to die of natural causes in California since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1978, according to Reuters. In that time, only 13 inmates have been executed in the state, and none since 2006. In addition to those natural deaths, 24 death row inmates have committed suicide and eight have died of other causes over the past 37 years, NBC reports. There are still 747 inmates awaiting execution.

Reuters reports that while the death penalty is legal in California, executions have been stymied by legal challenges to lethal injections and a lack of political will to fight for capital punishment. Support for the death penalty is dropping around the country and was at a 50-year low in California last year. Only 54% of Californians supported it, down 14 points from 2011. Officials announced the death of Seaton, 69, yesterday. The exact cause of his death has yet to be determined; there has been an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease at San Quentin recently, but officials say there's no indication that played a role. (Read more death penalty stories.)

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