California Death Penalty Struck Down as Unconstitutional
There has been a big victory for those opposed to the death penalty, although not because of any high moral argument or the staggering amount of death penalty cases that have been overturned by DNA evidence. It’s because California just simply isn’t very good at getting around to killing their death row inmates.
According to Mercury News, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney “has declared the state’s capital punishment law unconstitutional because of the decades death row inmates must inevitably wait before execution.” Carney ruled that, at least in California, the death penalty is tantamount to life in prison “with the remote possibility of death.”
Essentially the argument seems to be that if a state says they are going to kill someone, they should not mess around and simply do it. However California, like many other states, is finding that lethal injection, despite its innocuous sounding name, is still brutally killing someone. In fact, the death penalty in California has been effectively paused because of challenges to the lethal injection method.
Mercury News reports that no fewer than “17 death row inmates have exhausted all their legal appeals and face execution, but none are likely to be scheduled for the foreseeable future.” Death row inmates in California often spend more than a decade fighting their convictions through appeal. The last inmate executed in the state, Clarence Allen, sat on death row for 26 years.
The decision, of course, is being appealed and it is not “a foregone conclusion” that the ruling will stand. However, if it does, it means that the Supreme Court could rule on the death penalty, something that has not yet happened. The issue remains a political hot-button, so the court seems like the perfect place for this issue to be settled.
However, even if the Supreme Court rules upholds the initial decision, it may not spell an end to the death penalty, but instead force states to kill their inmates more quickly.
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