Wow. Breaking news – a Federal judge just declared the California death penalty unconstitutional.
A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago.
Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed.
He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed.
“For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.
Well that does sound like torture.
Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the delays have created a “system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Carney said.
In overturning Jones’ death sentence, Carney noted that the inmate faced “complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether” he will be executed.
The “random few” who will be executed “will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary,” Carney said.
You’re there 20 years, you’re a different person, and then finally the state comes ambling along, yawning and picking its teeth, and says, “yeah ok we’re ready to off you now. Sorry about the wait.” It does seem pretty pointless.
And if it’s pointless after 20 years…then it’s pointless anyway, right? If it doesn’t accomplish anything after a long delay, how much can it accomplish if it’s done promptly?
Natasha Minsker, a director of the ACLU of Northern California, said Wednesday’s ruling marked the first time that a federal judge had found the state’s current system unconstitutional. She said it was also “the first time any judge has ruled systemic delay creates an arbitrary system that serves no legitimate purpose and is therefore unconstitutional.”
And it’s a Bush judge, a Bush 2 judge, a judge appointed by the Shrub. There’s something satisfying about that.