Prison cell at Alcatraz Island

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled California’s death penalty unconstitutional.

The ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney follows a similar ruling in Northern California that has kept the death penalty on hold in California for years.

Ruling in the case of a prisoner who was condemned in 1994, Carney wrote that inordinate and unpredictable delays have resulted in a death penalty system in which arbitrary factors determine whether an individual will actually be executed.

Carney vacated the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones.

CA State NAACP President Alice A. Huffman applauds the decision. “The NAACP has a strong adverse opinion of the Death Penalty in general, particularly in cases of botched executions stemming from a shortage of lethal injection drugs; the death penalty system’s racial disparities; and death row inmates later found to be innocent’, said Ms. Huffman.

“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,” Judge Carney wrote in his opinion.

Despite having the largest number of inmates on death row, no one has been executed in California since 2006.

Since 1978, when California voters legalized capital punishment, California has sentenced more than 900 people to death, but only 13 have been executed, while 748 are still on death row. (The rest have either died of other causes or have had their sentences overturned.)
The NAACP believes that the delays should count as cruel and unusual punishment.

“There really is a need for California to consider getting rid of the death penalty’, said Ms. Huffman. “The findings depicts a disparity in the implementation of the death penalty in California – out of the 748 inmates on death row over 36% (271) are African American and less than 35% are white (259).’ “We believe that today’s court ruling should cause policy makers to rethink their stand on the death penalty and to take a look at a failed criminal justice system.”


Associated Press contributed to this article