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Monday, July 21, 2014

Federal Judge Kills California's Death Penalty

     Since 1979, 900 inmates in California have been sentenced to death. But only thirteen have been executed. One of those unexecuted death row prisoners, Ernest Dewayne Jones, murdered and raped his girlfriend's mother in 1993. In 2011, Jones filed a petition with the federal court for the abolishment of the death penalty in the state. The lawyers filing the motion petitioned the judge to replace executions with life without parole sentences.

     In 2006, another federal judge in California placed the state's death penalty on hold until corrections officials overhauled their lethal injections procedures and protocol. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in an effort to comply with this judge's mandate, built a new execution chamber on the grounds of San Quentin in northern California.

     On July 16, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney declared California's death penalty unconstitutional. The judge wrote that "arbitrary factors" such as the manner in which corrections bureaucrats determined who would be executed and who wouldn't, made the process unfair and unpredictable. Moreover, the state's lethal injection procedures, according to the judge, created a risk an inmate might suffer pain during the execution.

     In concluding that California's execution law and procedures violated the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment, Judge Carney wrote: "As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they have languished so long on death row that their executions serve no retributive or deterrent purpose." [No retributive purpose? Tell that the the families of the people these cold-blooded killers had murdered without regard for the pain and suffering of their victims.]

     Since most of California's death row inmates die of old age before their dates with the executioner, the federal judge's ruling will have little practical affect on the state's criminal justice system.

     The improvement of the state's execution facility in response to the 2006 federal ruling turned out to be another example of California tax money poured down the drain. 

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