In a landmark decision on Wednesday, July 16, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney declared the death penalty in California unconstitutional. The ruling affects hundreds of inmates currently on death row who have endured long delays.
The long delays are the root of the ruling, which called the California death penalty “dysfunctional” and “arbitrary.” Judge Carney issued a 29-page ruling that states in part, “No rational person can question that the execution of an individual carries with it the solemn obligation of the government to ensure that the punishment is not arbitrarily imposed and that it furthers the interests of society.”
The ruling has shocked many because Carney is a conservative Republican judge appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2003. But Carney felt that in regard to California and its death penalty that enough was enough. The state of California has sentenced more than 900 inmates to death since 1978, but has only executed 13 inmates. The delay in execution of sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Carney goes on to state in his ruling “or the random few for whom execution becomes a reality… will go on to languish for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary. When an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it the promise that it will actually be carried out. That promise is made to citizens, jurors, victims and their loved ones, and to the hundreds of individuals on death row.”
The ruling can be appealed by the state of California and the state is in the process of examining this landmark death penalty decision.