California’s Death Penalty Struck Down

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.