Today's San Francisco Chronicle publishes the editorial, "Judge was right: California death penalty is flawed."
Judge Cormac Carney was precisely right: The death penalty, as applied in California, is so arbitrary and irrational that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Supporters of the death penalty immediately seized on the U.S. District Court judge's ruling in Orange County to insist that the system needs an overhaul: that inmates have too many appeals and the courts have been too deferential to concerns about methods of execution.
Opponents viewed the ruling as a significant step toward banning the practice.
No one, however, could credibly argue with the judge's conclusion that "no rational jury or legislature" would impose a sentence of "life in prison with the remote possibility of death." And that is what we have today in this state.
"Ruling is a reminder of need to fix California death penalty," is the Los Angeles Daily News editorial.
A federal judge’s ruling against California’s death penalty may strike legal analysts as novel, but it only underscores what most residents already knew about how the state punishes its most despicable murderers.
The way the death-penalty law is applied — more to the point, not applied — hundreds are sentenced to die but the vast majority of them live in prison for years while awaiting appeals. As a result, the threat of execution is not the crime deterrent it should be, and murder victims’ loved ones seeking retribution may suffer through decades of false hope. The legal and incarceration costs to the state run to tens of millions of dollars a year.
In his ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney added another layer to these objections. The long delays and uncertainties in the state’s death-penalty system, said the Orange County judge, violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The application of the death penalty, he wrote, shouldn’t be random and arbitrary.
"California's death penalty system is unconstitutional," is the Desert Sun editorial.
The Desert Sun supported the End the Death Penalty Initiative and we still believe it's better than California's dysfunctional system. Since 1978, California has spent $4 billion on death penalty cases. Ending the death penalty could save the state more than $100 million a year.
Inmates spend an average of 34 years on death row. Most die of old age. In the absence of timely justice, California may as well join 17 states, the District of Columbia and 139 countries that have outlawed the death penalty.
Judge Carney is right. The long-delayed and abysmal rate of executions provides no deterrent to offenders and no closure for the victims' families.
Earlier coverage of the California ruling begins at the link.