Skip Oliva on Endless Delays as Reason to Abolish the Death Penalty


mlhradio / Foter

The July 16 decision by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney declaring California's death penalty unconstitutional offered a stark assessment of the Golden State's dysfunctional capital punishment system. Judge Carney noted only 13 of the more than 900 people sentenced to death since 1978 have actually been executed—primarily because the average appeals process in a capital case takes "25 years or more" to complete.

Judge Carney acknowledged "courts had thus far generally not accepted the theory that extraordinary delay between sentencing and execution violates the Eighth Amendment," which prohibits "cruel and unusual" punishment. But in accepting that theory now, writes Skip Oliva, Judge Carney joined a substantial body of death penalty jurisprudence from the British Commonwealth.