Target: U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney
Goal: Praise ruling declaring California’s death penalty unconstitutional
California has not executed a single inmate since 2006 thanks to a judge raising the issue of lethal injections’ humaneness, but the state still has the largest population of inmates currently on death row in the country – almost 750. Recently another local, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, drove the point home when he ruled that the death penalty in the state of California is an unconstitutional violation of the Eighth Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” clause.
In his defense, Carney wrote thoughtfully about how only 13 of over 900 people sentenced to death in California have actually been executed by the state. Most inmates on death row end up dying in limbo, waiting for news of their own execution in the midst of some stage of the appeals process, which can go on for decades. In this case in particular, inmate and petitioner Ernest Jones has been in jail since his conviction in 1994. Carney argued that this prolonged threat of execution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, observing that 385 death row inmates in California have been awaiting their executions for longer than Jones. He added, “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.”
Legal experts expect an appeal of this ruling, but also anticipate that similar rulings soon might be seen around the country, since many of the issues Carney raised are not unique to California’s prison-industrial complex. Anti-death penalty activists are hopeful that this could be the beginning of the end for capital punishment in California. Death Penalty Focus’s executive director Matt Cherry commented, “It’s time to replace California’s broken death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. That’s the best way to ensure that convicted killers remain behind bars until they die, without wasting tens of millions of tax dollars every year on needless appeals.”
By signing this petition, you are thanking Judge Carney for his defense of Americans’ Eighth Amendment protections from cruel and unusual punishment.
Dear Judge Cormac J. Carney,
As you know, the prison-industrial complex in this country is entirely out of control, and California’s prison population dwarfs all other states’ inmate counts. Dealing with the death penalty is a necessary first step in overhauling a broken prison system, so I was overjoyed to hear of your decision finding capital punishment in the state of California to be unconstitutional.
Thank you for your thoughtful, carefully-researched, and eloquent decision in the case of Ernest Jones, pointing out that he is representative of the ordeals faced by death row inmates in California – decades of appeals and execution limbo, wondering whether or not the state will murder them out of the mistaken belief that death is the ultimate justice. Thank you for recognizing that this system of capital punishment unquestionably represents a violation of the Eight Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. I hope this decision reverberates throughout the country sooner rather than later.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Krystian Olszanski via Flickr