partlycloudy
Thursday July 30th, 2015 12:07AM

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 2015 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 ( 6 months 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 ( 6 months 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 ( 6 months 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 ( 6 months 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 ( 6 months 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 ( 6 months 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 ( 6 months 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 ( 6 months ago )
Politics
Then & Now: Medicare and Medicaid turn 50
WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law on July 30, 1965, roughly half of Americans 65 and older had no health insurance."No longer will older American...
12:01AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Planned Parenthood seeks fed study of fetal tissue research
WASHINGTON (AP) — Under fire for its role in providing fetal tissue for research, Planned Parenthood asked the government's top health scientists Wednesday to convene a panel of independent experts to...
8:57PM ( 3 hours ago )
Average US vehicle age hits record 11.5 years
DETROIT (AP) — In the age of Apple's CarPlay, a lot of cars on the road still have tape decks.The average vehicle in the U.S. is now a record 11.5 years old, according to consulting firm IHS Automotiv...
7:01PM ( 5 hours ago )
Los Angeles leaders outlaw high-capacity gun magazines
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation's second-largest city is poised to ban possession of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, stepping into the national debate over gun regulation...
6:13PM ( 5 hours ago )
House votes to provide money for highways, transit
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to shore up federal highway aid and veterans' health care before heading out of town for its August recess, leaving unresolved an array of...
5:51PM ( 6 hours ago )