Calif. death penalty ruled ‘arbitrary’ by federal judge

No prisoner executed since 2006
Dewayne Jones

Ernest Dewayne Jones – convicted in 1995

The following comes from a July 16 story in the New York Times.

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty system is so arbitrary and plagued with delay that it is unconstitutional, a decision that is expected to inspire similar arguments in death penalty appeals around the country.

The state has placed hundreds of people on death row, but has not executed a prisoner since 2006. The result, wrote Judge Cormac Carney of United States District Court, is a sentence that “no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death.”

That sense of uncertainty and delay, he wrote, “violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”

About 40 percent of California’s 748 death row inmates have been there more than 19 years.

Judge Carney, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, issued the 29-page order vacating the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, convicted in 1995 of raping his girlfriend’s mother and stabbing her to death.

Calling it “a stunningly important and unprecedented ruling,” Elisabeth Semel, the director of the death penalty clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, law school, said that the “factually dense” and “well reasoned” opinion was likely to be cited in other cases in California and elsewhere.

But its legal sweep will depend on the outcome of the state’s likely appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, she said.

Douglas Berman, a sentencing expert at the Ohio State University law school, said the ruling could generate appeals in any of a dozen states with large backups on death row and no recent executions or infrequent ones, as well as the federal system, which has had no execution in more than a decade.

“California is the most extreme example, but Pennsylvania is pretty darned close,” Professor Berman said. He questioned the logic, however, of granting a prisoner “a windfall” because of a state’s inaction.

Professor Berman suggested that California could address the court’s ruling by saying, “ ‘We’ve got to get our act together and move forward with executions.’ ”

“But,” he added, “that’s a heck of a lot easier said than done.”

California voters affirmed the death penalty by a narrow margin in 2012, with 48 percent of voters favoring replacing it with life in prison without parole. That vote, Professor Berman said, “may reflect that they’re comfortable with a system that doesn’t get around to executing somebody.”

The death penalty has been effectively under a moratorium in the state since 2006, when Judge Jeremy Fogel of United States District Court in San Jose ordered changes in the state’s execution methods. In 2008, Ronald George, then the chief justice of California, called the system for handling appeals in capital cases “dysfunctional….”

To read the entire story, click here.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    CCC: ” 2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty,
    if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent. ”

    When the death penalty is required to defend lives against an unjust aggressor, it is inhumane to drag things out past 5 years. 5 years provides enough time to exhaust all appeals.

    • 5 years is also enough time for a heinous criminal to educate himself, and repent to save his own Soul, but only if he desires to repent.

      • Actions have consequences – both on earth and at our judgment.
        We must take responsibility for our own actions.

        There are times when the death penalty is required to ” defend lives against an unjust aggressor”.
        Prison employees and other prisoners must be protected from an unjust aggressor.

        • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

          Dave,

          Why did you leave out Witnesses?

          May God have mercy on an amoral Amerika and His Church!
          Viva Cristo Rey!
          Yours in Their Hearts,
          Kenneth M. Fisher

      • SandraD says:

        Important point…..repent, sorrow, knowledge that the heinous act was indeed heinous and evil. Confession. That DOES change the outcome….Our Lord says so.

  2. So the anti-death-penalty agitators use every legal maneuver available to slow down trials, clog courts, delay executions, delay justice, then an activist judge rules that those very delays make the death penalty unconstitutional whereas a swifter meting out of justice would be acceptable.

    The judge should have ruled that the tactics of the anti-death-penalty agitators are unconstitutional, but that would have been too logical for a leftist mind to fathom.

    • Your Fellow Catholic says:

      Where are the pro life Catholics in this debate?

      • hosemonkey says:

        You are one of those people who is confused about the difference between innocent and guilty, aren’t you?
        A felon who has committed a heinous crime and has been sentenced to death is known as GUILTY.
        A child in the womb, unborn, who has been convicted of no crime, is called INNOCENT. Got it?

        • Your Fellow Catholic says:

          housemonkey, I think so long as there is doubt about the guilt of a person there should be no death penalty. (I’m not sure whether I think a truly guilty person should be murdered.). Long appeals process are vital to ensure that the condemned are really truly guilty.

          Besides, which, we now know that many on death row were innocent, thanks to DNA evidence. It is quite often the case that murders do not get proper council, and they were convicted in haste and with a minimum of good evidence, but their public counsel was so poor and so underresourced, that the prosecution rips through the case.

          • hosemonkey says:

            My suggested plan to solve this dilemma:
            Ensure that the capitally accused is given a totally fair trial. Spare no expense in the trial and appeal process (2 maximum allowed) Better to spend the money up front rather than in the endless appeal process and subsequent long incarceration. If the appeals fail, execution by guillotine on the following Monday morning. Why guillotine? Swift, painless and very sure, no arguments about drug mistakes, no vein access etc. Everything else is liberal rubbish. In the case of freely offered confessions, witnessed crimes etc, Thorough investigation and immediate carrying out of the death sentence. Also, let us reenstate the death penalty for forcible rape, kidnapping and treason. We could clean out death rows in just a few weeks, save a great deal of money and make our country a lot safer. I am against the death penalty in it’s present form, it is a joke and a convicyed felon has a better chance of being stricken by lightning than of being executed.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wow, the breathless barbarity with which hosemonkey speaks is surely an affront to God. There is no forgiveness nor grace in his words.

            And, before someone quotes the CCC, please spare me. Provide me a biblical reference to support capital punishment enforced by the state.

        • SandraD says:

          Important point hosemonkey…..however, read my post below and let me know what you think.

          • hosemonkey says:

            Thank you, SandraD
            “Anonymous” accuses me of “breathless barbarity” and a lack of forgiveness and grace. Laughable comment, given the barbarity and lack of grace of the subjects of this discussion. Forgiveness is not mine to grant and judgement is not mine to dispense, that is the job of God and the legal system. For some, like “Anonymous,” warehousing killers at great expense is OK, creating a vast prison growth industry built upon the backs of taxpayers. Society has failed to prevent criminality in some segments of the population and the justice system has failed to deal with the result. That needs to be changed. Law-abiding citizens should not have to live in fear nor be burdened with the cost of keeping killers in prison for life. You have a problem with this, Anonymous, and others of your ilk? Fine, a special tax should be levied on you, to take care of the cost of supporting your darlings on death row. This will ease your conscience, I am sure.

      • John Feeney says:

        YFC, what have you done to stop the murder of unborn babies?

        • Your Fellow Catholic says:

          prayed and negotiated

          • Abeca Christian says:

            YFC not enough

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Augustine says: “Unless a man restore what he has purloined, his sin is not forgiven. Since therefore the safeguarding of justice is necessary for salvation, it follows that it is necessary for salvation to restore what has been taken unjustly. (Aquinas, ST II/II 62,2)

            “They deserve not only to be severed from the Church by excommunication, but also severed from the world through death”

            (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica , Pt. II-II, Q. 11, Art. 3).

          • YFC, have you “VOTED” for pro-abortion and/or pro-euthanasia Candidates?

          • Your Fellow Catholic says:

            Abeca, I haven’t purloined, thank you very much. How about you let me discern what God is calling me to do?? Novel idea, huh?

          • Abeca Christian says:

            YFC I never said you did, I just quoted from ST. Aquinas. They are quotes pertaining to this article, the death penalty, nothing about you. Sorry you thought I connected you to them. I only replied to you that you can do more about stopping abortion. Then the other comment was not directed at you.

            Whew took some patience here but I thought I would clarify to you out of charity. You sure love to make me work. Tally-Ho Go in peace

          • hosemonkey says:

            “Negotiated” with who?

          • John Feeney says:

            YFC, how do you negotiate with people who murder unborn babies?

      • YFC, again we exhort you to read the CCC.
        The first post in this thread is an exact quote from the CCC.

        • Your Fellow Catholic says:

          I exhort you to also read the CCC and abide by it in your treatment of gay people. So far, you do not.

          • Abeca Christian says:

            That’s rubbish YFC stop preaching what you don’t know anything about sir. All you do is whinge, whinge. Treatment of “gay” people?….really? So now the activists wants special treatment while they try to persecute Christians. Well guess what, wake up and notice that is not how it works in life, people do choose Christ and His will for His people, not all will conform to your rubbish.

            Talk to the hand…we are not listening to your lies.

  3. It never seems to matter what the people want, it’s what the all powerful judiciary says we want. It would be laughable if it wasn’t for the fact that these criminals, convicted of capital crimes by a jury (judges, you remember them, don’t you?) voted to convict these people and the judicial system is responsible for the exceedingly long delay and no one else. Why not fire a bunch of judges and put people with more common sense in their place?

    • In some cases Judges are elected.
      In other cases Judges are appointed by elected politicians.
      In either case we (voters) have to take some responsibility for bad judges.
      As voters we have to do a better job vetting those we elect.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      Bob,

      Common Sense! That is the most missing factor in today’s political system!

      May God have mercy on an amoral Amerika and His Church!
      Viva Cristo Rey!
      Yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m assuming that this judge is a conservative because he was appointed by Bush. Now are you saying the conservative judges are actually activist liberals? I’m confused.

      Oh, wait! I get it. Anyone who disagrees with your narrow world view is an evil activist judge. Confused resolved.

  4. I am for the death penalty in cases where there is no doubt that the defendant is guilty of a heinous crime, but in California, the anti-death penalty people have created laws which allow the convicted person to file endless appeals. Some prisoners have died of diseases of the elderly while awaiting yet another appeal filed by his special death-penalty-certified attorney. It costs far more to house a prisoner on death row than a prisoner in the general population of the prison. A prisoner has a better chance of dying at the hands of another prisoner than being executed by the state. If for no other reason than to save the citizens of California money, let’s abolish the death penalty.

  5. Life Lady says:

    I would prefer California adopt the method of Texas: one swift appeal, then your sentence will be carried out. That is quite a bit more rational than the present appeal process. Afterall, votes should still count, and judges ought to get out of the way of the laws that voters have upheld. We voters do exist, and we have a right to have what we have voted for upheld by those public servants who took an oath of office. I could go on how Prop 8 was not struck down, it’s still the law in California, but the informed and rational people who read these comments know what I’m talking about.

    • St. Peter says:

      It’s ironic that someone posting under the title “Life Lady” supports the death penalty.

      The church has made it clear that cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent, and therefore alternative sentencing (like life in prison) is the moral option.

  6. hosemonkey says:

    Amen! One swift and throrough appeal and then execution by whatever means is cheapest.

  7. Your Fellow Catholic says:

    the death penalty is necessary….in your opinion. In my opinion, referring to men and their deaths as you use in your post, Dear Sea Snail, in such callous terms is beneath Christians. Or should be.

  8. suppose the convicted prisoner prefers “languishing on death row for years” rather than being timely put to death? is that welcomed delay “cruel and unusual punishment”? with due respect, your position seems illogical.

    • Anonymous says:

      The punishment is only just if the prisoner is actually guilty. As has been proven in many cases, the jury convicted the wrong man who was subsequently put to death. There is no justice in man decided the fate of another, that is the role of God. Is is beyond prideful to believe otherwise.

      • In the USA today, with forensic science, DNA, etc, etc, the heinous criminal is not wrongly convicted.
        It does not take longer than 5 years to properly appeal a case, if the lawyers and judicial system cooperates. 5 years should be the max of waiting time.
        Lawyers should not be able to prolong sentences without solid undeniable evidence.

      • Your Fellow Catholic says:

        wow. what utter nonsense, Conus. Why even having a trial at all if God will sort it all out in the end. Just point the finger and accuse someone, send them to the gas chamber, and let God figure it all out, is that what you are saying?

  9. MIchael McDermott says:

    I oppose the Death Penalty – as a Penalty.

    “Vengeance is Mine” Says the Lord, and I would not want the killing of another human capable of repentance to be on my conscience, particularly given how fallible the system has proven at times.

    Even Pilate admitted Jesus was an Innocent Man being unjustly Killed – but went along to please the crowd, after washing his hands.

    However – the Prison System is so broken as to allow even Stone Murderers like Crips Founder Tookie Williams to maintain their position as head of an evil killing machine – even from behind bars. Prison Gangs are for Real, and no amount of lockdown / isolation can survive their insider system, particularly in an age of ‘Prisoner Rights’.

    Hence – to use the Death Penalty as a Tool to Save Other Innocents, is an argument that I will at least consider.

    Such was the the case of the thoroughly unrepentant Crips Founder Williams, and regardless of the special racist hate for caucasians he frequently voiced while laughing about his Murder Victims – it was his willingness to Continue Ordering the Killing of Any and All Innocents that I agree made him suitable for execution.

    Like the concept of “just War” (think WW-2 shutting down the homo-nazi death camps) – so too with Just Execution, when it can stop the further slaughter of innocents.

    • Congrats, Michael. That is the first time you have written a coherent comment since March.

      I guess those gays really get to you.

      • MIchael McDermott says:

        Muchos Garcias ‘San-D’ – for another example of Alinskyite Propaganda in this Age of Abomination.
        First – ‘San-D’ bestows qualified Conga-Rats on your correspondent; Via the backhand ‘compliment’ that I haven’t “written a coherent comment since March”.
        Followed with the punch line – that (Light Hearted Happy People = Homo-Anal Coprophiles): “really get to you”.

        No mention of Mau Mau Artistes gaily Trolling this board with their ‘hate-bate’, although the Associated Press exposed the scam by reporting HIV Rates declining for
        “…men, women, whites, blacks, Hispanics, heterosexuals, injection drug users and most age groups.
        The only group in which diagnoses increased was (“Gaily Happy” = Homo-Anal Coprophile) and bisexual men, the study found…
        The CDC has been estimating about 50,000 new infections occur each year…
        How could new infections be holding steady when diagnoses are falling?

        Perhaps the infection count might be buoyed by the expanding epidemic in young (‘Gaily Happy’ = Homo-Anal Coprophile) and bisexual men, said Sullivan, the Emory researcher.”

        According to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi – awarded the Nobel prize in 2008 for helping to discover HIV.
        “You will have patients with resistant forms, they will transmit the virus to others, and long term if this is happening in several countries in the world,

        we may have a re-emergence of HIV appearing with a form of virus that is resistant to the current panel of antiretroviral drugs that we have.”

        • Michael, is it too late to take back my qualification? Apparently, it’s not just the gays that get you going as you have returned to argle bargle.

          Peace be with you!

          • Abeca Christian says:

            Michael you are doing just fine…ignore this new person Sara D…..

          • I’m not new Abeca, just just didn’t feel the need to lend my voice.

            And it is true what I said, Michael sees conspiracy everywhere he looks. It’s really quite sad.

        • Thank you for that return to form.
          http://tinyurl.com/mcdermott-bingo

          • Lol, Hugh! That is hysterical.

          • Your Fellow Catholic says:

            Priceless!

          • It would appear Mr McDermott is most assuredly getting under someone’s skin. They went to a great deal of trouble in a pathetic attempt to mock him with their grubby little bingo game. Why? And Sara d’s little snicker reminded me of sister rat nibbling at the cheese whilst the cat was busy chasing brother rat. ;0). Let’s be straightforward and honest about what we believe. This is what democrats and liberals exceed at…deceit , ridicule and sly cunning. They make no pretense of being Christian at all…so sad, really. Just defend what you believe with conviction and clarity. Stop stooping to childish nonsense.

          • St. Peter says:

            That is funny.

    • Murders and other heinous crimes are plotted within prison walls and carried out on the outside as well as inside prison walls.

      Gangs in the USA – per FBI
      http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/gangs/gangs

      and FBI’s GANG assessment –
      http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/2011-national-gang-threat-assessment
      From the FBI – “PRISON/Fami;y Connection”
      http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/2011-national-gang-threat-assessment/2011-national-gang-threat-assessment#GangsandCorrections
      Gang Members – prison related.
      18th Street; 415 Kumi; Arizona New Mexican; Aryan Brotherhood;
      Aryan Brotherhood of Texas; Aryan Circle; Bandidos; Barrio Azteca;
      Black Guerilla Family; Black Gangster; Disciples; Black P-Stone Nation;
      Bloods; California Mexican; Mafia; Colorado Aryan; Brotherhood;
      Crips; Dead Man Inc.; Dirty White Boys; Gangster Disciples (GD);
      Grupo 25 (G-25); Grupo 27 (G-27); Hells Angels (MC) Hermanos de
      Pistoleros Latinos (HPL); La Nuestra Familia; Latin Kings; Los Carnales;
      MS-13; Nazi Low Riders; Ñetas; Norteños; Northern Riders;
      Northern Structure; Outlaws; Paisas; Raza Unida; Simon City Royals;
      Skinheads; Sureños; Syndicato De Nuevo Mexico; Texas Chicano Brotherhood; Texas Mexican Mafia (Mexikanemi-EMI);
      Texas Syndicate; United Blood Nation; Valluco Tango Blast;
      Vice Lords; West Texas Tangos.

      The next time a Bishop wants to vacate a death penalty verdict, ask him to educate himself first.

      • All of these GANGS operate outside as well as inside prison walls.

        The next time a Bishops says ILLEGAL immigrants want to get away from GANGS, educate him.
        From the FBI – – – There are over 30,000 gangs involved in violent crimes including murder in the USA, with about 1.4 MILLION members that are criminally active.

        Debate is good, but only when the facts are included.

  10. SandraD says:

    Here’s a true story: A husband and father has broken-up and left his family. They divorce. The wife takes up with another man. The husband gets wind of it and becomes jealous and angry. He drives 4 hours to reach wife and her lover to kill them (with knife), in the presence of his son. He then takes son and drives home. The husband receives life in prison. In prison, he has a conversion. He leads Bible study, draws beautiful pictures of scripture and attends Confession and Mass when offered. He’s been housed in prison for over 40 yrs. He has a possibility of getting out of prison soon in CA. Question: Has justice been served? His wife is still dead, her lover is still dead, their son hurt beyond all reason….famlies destroyed. Was justice served? This sinner has been forgiven by our Lord. Has he paid his debt to society?

    • SandraD, Your theoretical story is nice, but you neglected to state whether the criminal has learned to control his temper/anger.
      In addition check out the definitions of “SOCIOPATH”, and “PSYCHOPATH”, and add that to your story. – It will be more true to life.

      Prison statistics show that most criminals are repeat offenders. 3 in 4 Prisoners are arrested/convicted again with 5 years of release.
      Source: US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

      • SandraD says:

        its a true story

      • I might point out hosemonkey that blacks and Latinos are also the most historically wrongfully convicted. It’s not as easy as you make it out to be, the modern problems that the black community faces started with slavery, but it didn’t end there.

        • Muslims still keep slaves! Millions of Christians were enslaved by them and are still being murdered by them each year. The Vatican estimates 100,000 at least. The problems of black people really began under the Democratic onslaught in the 1930s when once stable black families were weakened and eventually destroyed by welfare restrictions where the father was forced from the home in order for that family to receive payments. Also, this insane policy destroyed any incentive to find work. Read “Native Son” and learn from Richard Wright what is still happening in fatherless homes in black ghettoes. You simply do not get how important fathers are to raising mature males. The responsibilities of manhood have to be inculcated….look at the importance of male rituals in all cultures. This trivializing of male role models is insidious and self destructive. If you want to fault anyone, start exposing the man-eating feminazis that are terrorizing the rest of us.

  11. The Death Penalty may NEVER be used for vengeance.
    It may only be used to protect the lives of others from an unjust aggressor.
    The lives of prison employees and other prisoners must also be protected.

    CCC: ” 2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty,
    if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent. ”

  12. Bob One says:

    I personally against the death penalty except in the most grievous cases. However, in those states that have it, it should only be used when the person has been found guilty, totally. Here is what makes me nervous: DNA Exonerations Nationwide
    There have been 317 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States.

    • The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 38 states; since 2000, there have been 250 exonerations.

    • 18 of the 317 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row. Another 16 were charged with capital crimes but not sentenced to death.

    • The average length of time served by exonerees is 13.5 years. The total number of years served is approximately 4,249.

    • The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 27.

    Races of the 317 exonerees:

    199 African Americans
    94 Caucasians
    22 Latinos
    2 Asian American

    • The true suspects and/or perpetrators have been identified in 154 of the DNA exoneration cases.
    • Since 1989, there have been tens of thousands of cases where prime suspects were identified and pursued—until DNA testing (prior to conviction) proved that they were wrongly accused.

    Too many cases can be overturned with new methods like DNA. There is no explanation for the high percentage of African Americans in prison or on death row except discrimination within law enforcement. The judged in this case ruled that we did not treat all persons on death row equally.

  13. hosemonkey says:

    The reason that blacks fill the jails and prisons is that blacks commit the vast majority of crimes, followed by hispanics. Deal with reality folks, criminality is the reason, not discrimination. Black and hispanic gangs are extending their reach throughout this country and have become a major problem. Do the research.

  14. CCC: ” 2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good.
    Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense.
    Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.”

    Also see first post on this thread regarding CCC: 2267 regarding the Death Penalty itself.

    “ The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved … and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine,
    attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium.
    I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. “ – Pope John Paul II (CCC pg 5)

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