This past week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal judge’s ruling that determined California’s death penalty system violated the Constitution.
In a unanimous decision, the federal court of appeals overturned U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney’s ruling from July 2014 that concluded the state’s death penalty procedures were arbitrary and unconstitutionally implemented.
Judge Carney concluded that the delay in executions between one prisoner and another created an arbitrary process in which it was unclear when or if a prisoner would be executed, or in any particular order.
Thus, Judge Carney found that California’s death penalty regime violated the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, ruled against the prisoner on appeal because of technical issues related to the procedure of the case. Consequently, the Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Carney improperly decided the matter and reversed his 2014 decision.
While the Court of Appeals noted that California’s death penalty system is considered dysfunctional and defined by extraordinary delays, the Court was unable to address these underlying issues because they raised new constitutional arguments that hadn’t been made at the lower court, a procedural violation.
As a result, the death penalty remains in effect in California. It is estimated that approximately 750 inmates are currently on death row in California.
Legal challenges against the death penalty in California will doubtless continue.
Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney based in Orange County, California. His practice of criminal law is extensive and includes representing persons charged with the most serious of crimes.
If you have concerns about a criminal law matter, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower may be reached at 714-997-4400.