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How Likely is California’s Death Penalty Revival
July 13, 2015
On Monday, June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court reinforced the right of states to rely on lethal injection to carry out executions of criminals, effectively re-opening the debate over the death penalty in California, a debate which has long laid dormant.
California hasn’t executed a prisoner since 2006. In 2014, federal judge Cormac J. Carney of the United States District Court condemned its death penalty system as unconstitutional, arbitrary and plagued with delay. With the Supreme Court’s new ruling, however, the state can move forward with developing a new execution procedure.
“(It is) a pretty strong green light for California to go forward with whatever lethal injection protocol fits their own regulations and interests,” said Douglas Berman, a law professor at the Ohio State University.
It looks like the death penalty is coming whether its opponents want it or not. The state’s prison officials vowed to make a proposal for a new single-drug execution injection within 120 days of the Supreme Court’s ruling, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
However, it will be a long time before California begins executing inmates on death row again. Supporters of capital punishment will first need to overcome the countless inevitable delays, court showdowns and other legal obstacles before the revised lethal injection method is put into practice. All told, it could take years for the death penalty to become a reality again.
While that’s good news for the state’s 750 inmates on death row, there are at least 15 of these inmates who have exhausted their options for appeals with their criminal defense attorneys, and who are now eligible for execution.
Additionally, executing death row inmates gives them no opportunity to prove wrongful conviction, which has been on the rise in recent years. One recent survey of 188 judges, criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors, sheriffs and more found that 10,000 Americans can be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes in an average year. About 52.3% of these convictions are the result of eyewitness misidentification; perjury by a witness leads to 11% of wrongful convictions.
And once you’re dead, not even the best criminal defense attorney can prove that you’ve been wrongfully convicted.
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