clear
Friday May 27th, 2016 8:09PM

Federal judge rules against Calif. death penalty

By The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A federal judge ruled California's death penalty unconstitutional Wednesday, writing that lengthy and unpredictable delays have resulted in an arbitrary and unfair capital punishment system.<br /> <br /> The decision by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney represents a legal victory for those who want to abolish the death penalty in California and follows a similar ruling that has suspended executions in the state for eight years.<br /> <br /> Carney, in a case brought by a death row inmate against the warden of San Quentin state prison, called the death penalty an empty promise that violates the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.<br /> <br /> "Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State," wrote Carney, a George W. Bush appointee.<br /> <br /> He noted that death penalty appeals can last decades and, as a result, most condemned inmates are likely to die of natural causes before their executions are carried out.<br /> <br /> Carney also wrote that since the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters 35 years ago, more than 900 people have been sentenced to death, but only 13 have been executed.<br /> <br /> "As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary," the judge stated.<br /> <br /> While the decision's only immediate effect was on California, legal experts said it could echo elsewhere as the issues it addresses are in no way unique.<br /> <br /> "Every state with a significant death row has the problem of cases taking a long time," said Gabriel J. Chin, a law professor at the University of California, Davis.<br /> <br /> Chin said he sees a long appeals process ahead and expects the case will reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling could be appealed by either the governor or the state attorney general.<br /> <br /> Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles County district attorney who has become an anti-death-penalty activist, called the ruling "truly historic."<br /> <br /> "It further proves that the death penalty is broken beyond repair," he said.<br /> <br /> Carney's ruling came in a legal petition brought by Ernest Dewayne Jones, sentenced to die in 1994 after being convicted of murdering and raping his girlfriend's mother.<br /> <br /> Jones remains on death row "with complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether," his execution will come, the judge wrote.<br /> <br /> Carney noted that "arbitrary factors" such as the manner in which paperwork is handled are what "determine whether an individual will actually be executed."<br /> <br /> The ruling was not without critics. Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen, former chairman of the California Board of Prison Terms, issued a statement saying, "The current system needs improvement, but to completely get rid of the death penalty is unconscionable for victims and their families and society.<br /> <br /> "Victims and their families need and deserve justice. This ruling denies them and society justice."<br /> <br /> He said Californians have long supported the death penalty, and he urged Attorney General Kamala Harris to "uphold the will of the people" and appeal.<br /> <br /> Another federal judge put California's death penalty on hold in 2006 when he ruled the state's lethal injection procedures needed overhaul.<br /> <br /> The judge found that the state's procedures created too much risk that an inmate would suffer extreme pain while being executed. At that time, lethal injections were carried out in San Quentin's old gas chamber, which the judge found too cramped, too dark and too old for prison staff to properly administer execution drugs.<br /> <br /> Since then, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has built a new execution chamber on the grounds of San Quentin in Northern California and made changes to its procedures.<br /> <br /> A new federal judge has taken over the case and has not ruled on whether those changes are enough for the state to restart executions.<br /> <br /> Additionally, the corrections department is drafting a new set of regulations for administering lethal injections. No executions can take place until the new rules are formally adopted.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 1 year ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 1 year ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Amid shouts of 'shame,' House GOP defeats gay rights measure
Democrats shouted "shame," but House Republicans switched their votes and defeated a measure to protect gay rights
8:03PM ( 1 week ago )
CDC director Freiden warns GOP Zika bill is inadequate
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday that a House GOP measure to combat the Zika virus is inadequate to deal with the swelling threat to public health
7:36PM ( 1 week ago )
Trump unveils list of his top picks for Supreme Court
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, released Wednesday a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House.
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
1st US penis transplant could bring hope to maimed soldiers
A 64-year-old cancer patient has received the nation's first penis transplant, a groundbreaking operation that may also help U.S. veterans maimed by roadside bombs
8:04PM ( 1 week ago )
States dig in against directive on transgender bathroom use
Politicians in Texas, Arkansas and elsewhere are vowing defiance over the Obama administration's new directive on transgender bathroom use
9:19PM ( 1 week ago )