Bush II judicial appointee rules California’s death penalty system unconstitutional

Jul 16, 2014 Bush II judicial appointee rules California’s death penalty system unconstitutional

Today, a federal trial judge appointed by George Bush II, ruled that California’s death penalty system is unconstitutional, due to long procedural delays for challenging capital convictions, and tremendously arbitrary methods in determining the tiny minority of death row inmates who actually get executed. Jones v. Chappell, ___ F.Supp. 2d ___ (C.D.C. July 16, 2014).

In finding the California death penalty system unconstitutional, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney wrote:

For Mr. Jones to be executed in such a system, where so many are sentenced to death but only a random few are actually executed, would offend the most fundamental of constitutional protections–that the government shall not be permitted to arbitrarily inflict the ultimate punishment of death. See Furman, 408 U.S. at 293 (Brennan, J., concurring) (“When the punishment of death is inflicted in a trivial number of the cases in which it is legally available, the conclusion is virtually inescapable that it is being inflicted arbitrarily. Indeed, it smacks of little more than a lottery system.”). To be sure, Furman specifically addressed arbitrariness in the selection of who gets sentenced to death. But the principles on which it relied apply here with equal force. The Eighth Amendment simply cannot be read to proscribe a state from randomly selecting which few members of its criminal population it will sentence to death, but to allow that same state to randomly select which trivial few of those condemned it will actually execute. Arbitrariness in execution is still arbitrary, regardless of when in the process the arbitrariness arises.

Jones v. Chappell.

Opponents of Jones v. Chappell will be unable to argue that the opinion comes from a judge who was a liberal presidential appointment. Deciding Judge Cormac Carney was appointed over a decade ago by Republican president George Bush II.

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