Thursday, July 17, 2014

US Judge decides that California's death penalty serves no "purpose"

Judge Carney
US District Judge Cormac J. Carney has ruled that California's death penalty is unconstitutionally in violation of "the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment." In his opinion [PDF], he writes:
Since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, over 900 people have been sentenced to death for their crimes. Of them, 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. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death. As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.
While judges should rule on the basis of law, he veers far away from that when he decides that California's death penalty serves "no retributive or deterrent purpose." Deciding what is retributive and what is deterrent are policies issues, and policies issues are for the legislature, not the judiciary, to decide.

Notice also that the judge is declaring that the results of the judicial process are "unpredictable" and "random."  He seems unaware that his decision could be considered an example of just that.

So far, Carney's decision applies to just to the case of one Ernest Dewayne Jones who raped and murdered his girlfriend's mother.  One can expect, however, that death penalty opponents will attempt to apply the same reasoning to the cases of the rest of the state's convicted murderers.

Judge Carney, like Chief Justice Roberts who approved Obamacare, was appointed by Pres. Geo. W. Bush. Bush may have been strong on the war on terror but he wasn't strong on much else.

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