A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that California’s death penalty system violates the U.S. prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment” because rampant delays in appeals decisions coupled with sporadic executions create an “arbitrary” and unfair system of justice.
The ruling is a response to a challenge by Ernest Jones, who has been on Death Row in California for nearly two decades, and commutes his death sentence to life in prison without parole.
Orange County U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney—a George W. Bush appointee—wrote Wednesday that the state’s “penalty system 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.” Carney continues, “For all practical purposes then, a sentence of death in California is a sentence of life imprisonment with the remote possibility of death — a sentence no rational legislature or jury could ever impose.”
The small number of people who have been executed were forced to remain on Death Row for so long their killing was “arbitrary” and “random,” argues Carney.
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