While Missouri Executes, California Strikes down Death Penalty

On Wednesday, lawyers for John Middleton were in a battle with the State of Missouri to stop his execution. The state won, and Middleton became the eighth person executed in nine months in Missouri. On the same day across the country, a federal judge ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in California. Citing the long delays before an execution occurs in California, Judge Cormac Carney wrote that inmates “languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.”

The California ruling overturned the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, an inmate who has been on California’s death row for nearly twenty years.  Overall, only 13 of the 900 inmates sentenced to death in California since 1978 have been put to death.  Nearly half of the 750 currently on death row have been there for more than nineteen years.

California could appeal the ruling. While the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty, it has occasionally ruled that the death penalty can violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, depending how it is applied.
Posted: July 18, 2014

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