Federal Judge: Capital Punishment 'Cruel and Unusual'

I’ve never been a fan of capital punishment. Needless to say, this week’s ruling by a federal judge in Orange County, California, that the state's death penalty is unconstitutional is welcome news.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney said today that “the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed.”

He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed.

“For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.

An interesting aside on this ruling and the judge is that Carney was appointed by former President George W. Bush and Orange County, California is a well-known conservative bastion.

No rational person,” Carney wrote, “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.”

Natasha Minsker of the ACLU of Northern California said the “ruling marked the first time that a federal judge had found the state’s current system unconstitutional." She said it was also “the first time any judge has ruled systemic delay creates an arbitrary system that serves no legitimate purpose and is therefore unconstitutional.”

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