Capital punishment in California has been ruled out as unconstitutional on Wednesday. According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney in Santa Ana, Calif. just threw out the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones. Jones was reportedly held on for the capital punishment in California in April 1995.
Carney apparently ruled that the "arbitrariness" and "unpredictability" with which the capital punishment in California was carried out violates the constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment.
Carney is a George W. Bush appointee. In a strongly worded 29-page ruling, Carney has largely evaded facts pertaining to Jones and instead blasted the entire system of capital punishment in California. He called it 'plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay.'
Carney wrote in the ruling which blasted the capital punishment in California, 'For Mr. Jones to be executed in such a system, where so many are sentenced to death but only a random few are actually executed, would offend the most fundamental of constitutional protections - that the government shall not be permitted to arbitrarily inflict the ultimate punishment of death.'
According to the WSJ, the decision will not incur any changes soon with regard to the capital punishment in California, in which no one has been executed since 2006.
However, reports say that if the state appeals regarding problems with a state's death penalty system, the capital punishment in California having been rendered unconstitutional will be put squarely in front of a federal appeals court in San Francisco. A ruling from that court could reportedly dramatically change the death-penalty landscape throughout the majority of the western United States as well.
In Carney's ruling, a host of statistics with regard to the capital punishment in Caliornia have been highlighted. This includes one which says that only 13 of the 900 people sentenced to die since 1978 have been executed.
Kamala Harris' spokesman for the California attorney general said that the office was "reviewing the ruling" on the capital punishment in California.
Mr. Jones's lawyer, Michael Laurence, said in a statement, 'The federal judiciary has recognized what all persons who have studied the California system have determined: It is arbitrary and capricious, and violates the United States Constitution.'
According to the WSJ, critics of the capital punishment in California have argued for years about the the system in the state, which involves numerous appeals and lengthy waits for qualified, court-appointed lawyers. They posit that the process is inefficient.
Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., an organization largely opposed to how the death penalty is administered in the U.S. said that Wednesday's ruling on the capital punishment in California takes "such discussions out of the theoretical and into a legal framework", and that "If this gets appealed, it very quickly becomes a pressing issue for the state."
Reports say that there are currently thirty-two states which still have the power to sentence inmates to death.
Capital punishment in California has faced a variety of challenges in recent years, just like other capital punishment in different states. Challenges include the growing number of exonerations of convicts, often by new DNA evidence, as well as shortages of drugs used in lethal injections. The death penalty has reportedly been abolished in six states since 2007, including Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York.
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