After the recent July 16, 2014 Order Declaring California’s Death Penalty System Unconstitutional by the United States District Court for the Central District Of California in the case of Jones v. Chappell, users at the Brooklyn Law School Library may want to review the second edition of The Death Penalty in the United States: A Complete Guide to Federal and State Laws by Louis J. Palmer Jr. (Call #KF9725 .P35 2014). According to the publisher, the new edition includes 13 new chapters. Areas covered by some of the new chapters include Capital felon’s defense team; Habeas corpus, coram nobis and section 1983 proceedings; the Innocence protection act and post-conviction DNA testing; Challenging the death sentence under racial justice acts; Inhabited American territories and capital punishment; and the Costs of capital punishment.
The opinion by the federal district judge will be the talk of the death penalty community in the near future and is likely to be appealed to the Ninth Circuit (and perhaps the Supreme Court). The opinion 29-page opinion starts and ends as follows:
On April 7, 1995, Petitioner Ernest Dewayne Jones was condemned to death by the State of California. Nearly two decades later, Mr. Jones remains on California’s Death Row, awaiting his execution, but with complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether, it will ever come. Mr. Jones is not alone. Since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, over 900 people have been sentenced to death for their crimes. Of them, only 13 have been executed. For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death. As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.
That is the reality of the death penalty in California today and the system that has been created to administer it to Mr. Jones and the hundreds of other individuals currently on Death Row. Allowing this system to continue to threaten Mr. Jones with the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after he was first sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment….
When an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it an implicit promise from the State that it will actually be carried out. That promise is made to the citizens of the State, who are investing significant resources in furtherance of a punishment that they believe is necessary to achieving justice. It is made to jurors who, in exercise of their civic responsibility, are asked to hear about and see evidence of undeniably horrific crimes, and then participate in the agonizing deliberations over whether the perpetrators of those horrific crimes should be put to death. It is made to victims and their loved ones, for whom just punishment might provide some semblance of moral and emotional closure from an otherwise unimaginable loss. And it is made to the hundreds of individuals on Death Row, as a statement their crimes are so heinous they have forfeited their right to life.