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Victory! Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional in California

Victory! Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional in California

California is closer than ever to getting rid of the death penalty now that a U.S. district judge has declared capital punishment “unconstitutional.” In his verdict, Judge Cormac Carney vacated a death row inmate’s sentence not just because he feels executions are unfair, but that the state’s current practice of leaving inmates in indefinite limbo, uncertain of whether they will ever be killed or not, amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The decision is the result of Ernest Jones, a man convicted of raping and murdering his girlfriend’s mother back in 1995, petitioning the court to resolve whether his death sentence is legitimate. Ultimately, Judge Carney agreed that the death penalty is too broken of a system to be fair to Jones.

“Allowing this system to continue to threaten Mr. Jones with the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after he was first sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment,” wrote Judge Carney. “California’s death penalty is so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay that the death sentence is actually carried out against only a trivial few of those sentenced to death.”

Indeed, Jones is not alone in this awkward “we might kill you” waiting period. Over 900 people in California have been sentenced to death since the death penalty was instituted 35 years ago, yet only 13 were ever actually killed by the state.

“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,” Judge Carney noted. He elaborated that the executions that actually took place often came down to a matter of how and when certain inmates’ paperwork was filed.

California currently has 748 inmates sitting on death row, the most of any state in the country. The large number is due in part to the fact that California has not executed someone since 2006 when a judge expressed concern over the humaneness of lethal injections. Though the state made an attempt to execute an inmate in 2010, additional concerns about lethal injections have delayed all executions further.

Although the ruling applies solely to California, the decision could inspire similar change around the country. Given that the problems the judge cited are not specific to one state, it’s plausible that other judges could see it similarly to Carney elsewhere as well.

First, however, it will have to hold up in California. While the ruling will effectively halt executions (which have already effectively been halted, truthfully,) the decision will almost certainly be appealed.

For now, it’s a victory for opponents of capital punishment like Matt Cherry, the Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus. “Justice requires that we end this charade once and for all,” said Cherry. “It’s time to replace California’s broken penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. That’s the best way to ensure that convicted killers remain behind bars until they die, without wasting tens of millions of tax dollars every year on needless appeals.”

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136 comments

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12:20PM PDT on Aug 10, 2014

For those who are guilty: Putting them to death lets them out of the punishment that we can do. They need to rot in prison for the rest of their natural lives. If God wants to punish them God can take them anytime God wants to. It is not for us to dump them on God's doorstep.

For those who aren't actually guilty: A little late to say oops after they are dead. Humans are not perfect. We make mistakes. People have been wrongfully convicted. Just look at the men who were convicted of rape and then exonerated with DNA tests that proved they did not rape the victim. That is one crime that DNA can say yeah or nay on, but many other crimes don't have that and have to depend still on testimony and other forensic evidence that can be misread.

12:17PM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

In the Film, "Salvador"
Jack: U Become just like 'em! U Become just like 'em! (with horror).
- executing captured.

Hypocrisy.
It's just animal revenge.
If not, what the type of apathetic (pathetic) sociopath are they? Kill w/o feelings of empathy or any feelings for (all - their) victims (, too)?
Killing all the killers WILL NEVER MAKE it right - - RESURRECTION of victims! NEVER.
More and more violence and death.

Timmy was the last (physically) killed from Oklahoma horror.

I can't imagine I could ever B 'witness'. I'd go berzerk! I do everything to stop a needless death and die many times every day afterward seeing it.

TO Schwartznagger:
(With Oesterreich Accent) Why don't U stop being a 'girly man' and KILL them with your BARE HANDS!

11:43AM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Does anything absolve any of us of the mistakes and wrong things we do? Both sides of this argument have merit, so there should be something, that would be found to separate those that have been caught in the act and those that there is no doubt about from those that are questionable. Those that have committed heinous crimes should not be getting spared, because there are cases of the person being found innocent, because of new evidence. These are the vile creatures that making it hell on earth for the meek, the mild, the young, and the innocent victims.

8:53AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

Feeeling bad about it doesnt absolve You and I Brenda. WE are killing the same way the street killer is……and killing innocent people just so some few bad people dont slip through the cracks of our vengeance machine. WE are hypocrites.

8:50AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

Well Brenda we have this funny thing called tthe Consttitution that wont allow what you suggest.

So its OK if we kill innocent people as long as we dont let any bad guys escape the death penalty. We have to break some good eggs along with the bad eh??

Well, if we are killing innicent people then HOW THE HELL ARE WE ANY DIFFERENT THAN THE STREET KILLERS??? WE become who we are judigng on order to make sure no gulty guys gets off??? REALLY??

You DO realize they BAD guys are NOT deterred by this. Why do you care if they live or die if they are away from society now?? One way or another you are paying for them. Keeping people on death row is very expensive. WE wont even allow them to commit suicide which I find hilarious. NO You may NOT die on your own hand WE Must do it. LOLOLOL When WE, that means you and I, kill innocent people WE, You and I, BECOME the same vermin we are pretending are worse people than we are. How are you missing this point???

12:54PM PDT on Jul 27, 2014

Robert what about the innocent people you asked. Well for those very few I would be very disheartened and sad. There is no absolute fail safe in any situation. The problem being that those that are guilty, are getting out of the death penalty and that is certainly not right. Those vile being that have been caught in the act should be dealt with immediately. The person I mentioned in re-guards to my niece, was most certainly guilty of the first murder and yet got released. Then it was my nieces turn to be his next victim.
Maybe they should start using truth serum to get at the truth. There are way to many vile useless pieces of garbage walking around and way to many helpless potential victims at their disposal. Doesn't it say, " Beyond A shadow of a doubt.? " I still stand by the death penalty and its use which should also include animal abusers. Their many victims need justice to. What is done to the innocent human and animal alike need justice. Not sympathy for the offenders.

11:23PM PDT on Jul 26, 2014

That's exactly the point Robert. If the death penalty was being used to execute the "worst of the worst" then perhaps I could support it (just on the revenge factor if for nothing else).

But instead we are executing innocent people (there is no doubt about that) and even the guilty ones are uniformly poor or minorities. Also there is totally capricious way in which it is applied. Some person will accidentally kill another person in a bar fight and get the death penalty and another person, under the exact same circumstances, will get a manslaughter conviction and do 5 years.

Because the prosecutor has complete discretion over who gets charged with the death penalty it makes no rhyme or reason, and the truly horrible murderers cop a plea and always avoid the death penalty.

No, I practiced criminal law for over 20 years and I cannot support the death penalty.

11:16PM PDT on Jul 26, 2014

And what about all the innocent people on death row Brenda. And there ARE innocent people there. WE have already released them at the last minute because sicence proved they werent there. What about the innocent people we kill Brenda??

12:59PM PDT on Jul 26, 2014

Kevin yes , I am for the death penalty. . The use of it on certain people and not on others is the fault of the legal system not the people that advocate the death penalty.. All murderers are the same and should be put out of their miser! You call it revenge. That in part ,more than likely holds some truth to it, but stop and consider what was done to the victim. And then consider that as long as this scum breath, there is a chance that they will be turned loose. So now, should their vile lives be spared so that they can find new victims to destroy? I think not. I know this to be true because my young niece was a victim of a convicted murderer, that was turned loose. If the slime had paid for the murder of another young girl, the filthy POS would not have been around to chop my niece up with a machete.So yes, I am for the death penalty and for good reason. These slimy mutants, should not be turned loose on an unsuspecting and helpless society. They took life/lives and there fore they need to loose theirs.

9:12PM PDT on Jul 24, 2014

The United States and Japan are the only two modern democratic countries in the world that still have the death penalty, and Japan reserves the death penalty for extreme cases (mass murderers, serial killers, etc.).

The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime and has no effect on crime rates. It is applied unfairly in this country (i.e. we disproportionately kill the poor and people of color) and it is haphazard (two people will commit the exact same crime and one will be executed and the other get a 10 year jail sentence).

In short the death penalty is outdated, ineffective, discriminatory, and applied in an arbitrary and unjust manner. It is a historical relic with no place in the modern civilized world.

Killing people to prove killing people makes no sense.

The death penalty only has one legitimate sustaining argument, and that is revenge, pure and simple. If you are going to argue in favor of it, that is the only rational argument you can make.

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