California’s Death Penalty Struck Down

    393846 05: A view of the death chamber from the witness room at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility shows an electric chair and gurney August 29, 2001 in Lucasville, Ohio. The state of Ohio is one of the few states that still uses the electric chair, and it gives death row inmates a choice between death by the electric chair or by lethal injection. John W. Byrd, who will be executed on September 12, 2001, has stated that he will choose the electric chair. (Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)

    Mike Simons/Getty

    A federal judge struck down California’s death penalty Wednesday on the grounds that it violates the Constitution because sentences are not carried out in a reasonable, timely, or organized manner. “Arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones... determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Judge Cormac Carney wrote. More than 900 of people have been sentenced to die but only 13 have been put to death since 1976, when the Supreme Court overturned a national moratorium on the practice. The ruling overturns the death sentence for Ernest Jones, who was sentenced to die more than 20 years ago. The ruling comes after multiple prominent judges have ripped California's death penalty for the chaos it causes. Carney's decision, however, was the first to decide that the delays were themselves a constitutional violation. "We haven't seen very many rulings from the federal courts declaring a whole state's system unconstitutional," Harvard Law professor Carol Steiker said. "That's quite stunning." While Carney's ruling only applies to the sentence for Jones, it will have a wider impact if upheld on appeal.

    Read it at Los Angeles Times