Is California’s System of Capital Punishment Unconstitutional?

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Sturm College of Law


California, Capital punishment, Death penalty, Carney


In July 2014 US Federal District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney of the Central District of California granted a habeas petition explicitly invalidating the death penalty in California, the state with the nation’s largest death row. Judge Carney wrote that a death sentence in California is today a sentence “no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death” (emphasis in the original). Describing California’s death penalty system as “dysfunctional”, the court cited routine delays of decades or more between sentencing and execution and reasoned that “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.” That case, now titled Jones v. Davis, will be heard by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on August 31st.

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