The Los Angeles Times reports, "California death penalty unconstitutional, judge says," by Maura Dolan and Victoria Kim.
The ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A spokesman for Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris said only that her office was reviewing the decision.
“I think it has a shot in the 9th Circuit, but I don’t know about the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen, who chaired a state commission that concluded the system needed substantially more money to operate effectively.
“It is conceivable that the U.S. Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit could say California is such an outlier — its system is so dysfunctional, with twice the national delay — that it cannot be sustained,” Uelmen added.
"Federal judge's ruling on California death penalty stuns experts," is also by Dolan and Kim for the Times.
Carol Steiker, a criminal law professor at Harvard Law School and an expert on the death penalty, described Carney's decision as "stunning" and "path-breaking."
"That's a ruling of tremendous breadth," she said. "We haven't seen very many rulings from the federal courts declaring a whole state's system unconstitutional. That's quite stunning."
Elisabeth Semel, a UC Berkeley law professor who directs the school's Death Penalty Clinic, described Wednesday's decision as "unprecedented in the modern death penalty in California."
"This is an issue that has been discussed in California for decades," she said. "What he did is both amass and synthesize what [this means] in the context of the 8th Amendment."
"California death penalty ruled unconstitutional," is by Bob Egelko for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Inmates sentenced to death must wait three to five years for a court-appointed lawyer and nearly 14 years for the California Supreme Court to make an initial ruling on their case, with further delays in additional appeals to the state and federal courts, Carney said.
"When the state permits the post-conviction review process to become so inordinately and unnecessarily delayed that only an arbitrarily selected few of those sentenced to death are executed, the state's process violates the Eighth Amendment," which bans cruel and unusual punishment, the judge said.
He noted that a statewide commission headed by former Attorney General John Van de Kamp concluded in 2008 that the death-penalty system had broken down and recommended changes that were largely ignored. They included a substantial increase in funding for legal representation.
"Federal judge: State death penalty unconstitutional," is by Howard Mintz for the San Jose Mercury News, via the Times-Standard.
In the short term, the decision will not have much effect in California, where executions have been on hold since 2006 because of legal challenges to the state's lethal injection method. At least 17 death row inmates have exhausted all their legal appeals and face execution, but none are likely to be scheduled for the foreseeable future. The state has yet to even put in place an updated lethal injection method that can be reviewed by the courts.
The judge cited that reality in his ruling, which noted that more than 40 percent of the state's 748 condemned killers, like Jones, have spent at least 19 years on death row, many of them much longer as their appeals drag through the system. Clarence Ray Allen, the last inmate executed in California, spent 26 years on death row.
"The delay is systemic, and the state itself is to blame," Carney wrote.
The Contra Costa Times reports, "Federal judge rules California’s ‘completely dysfunctional’ death penalty system is unconstitutional," by Sarah Favot.
On average, California’s post-conviction appeals process takes 25 years or more. That’s nearly twice the national average, Carney wrote.
Of the 748 inmates on death row today, just 17 have completed the post-conviction review process, according to the ruling. More than 40 percent of the state’s death row inmates have been there longer than 19 years.
Carney said arbitrary factors — such as the length of the appeals process — are not dependent on “legitimate factors” like the nature of the crime or when the death sentence was imposed.