Though California rarely executes prisoners (at least compared with other states that still practice capital punishment), and have executed exactly zero since 2006, it still technically has the right to put prisoners to death. At least, it did. A ruling today from a federal judge has effectively ended that possibility. And that is a great thing.
From the ruling:
“California’s death penalty system is so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay that the death sentence is actually carried out against only a trivial few of those sentenced to death,” [U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J.] Carney writes. “For all practical purposes then, a sentence of death in California is a sentence of life imprisonment with the remote possibility of death — a sentence no rational legislature or jury could ever impose.”
Carney continues: “Inordinate and unpredictable delay… has resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed. And it has resulted in a system that serves no penological purpose. Such a system is unconstitutional.”
Generally, what happens in California spreads across the country, whether it be medical marijuana, same-sex marriage rights (ignoring the obvious, though temporary, outrageous interruption that was Prop 8), gun control legislation, environmental regulation, or anything else. Here’s hoping that trend continues. Capital punishment is an antiquated and utterly ineffective way to prevent crime. It is inhumane and cruel, exorbitantly expensive, and is more a means of vengeance than justice.
Many states (and most nations) have independently outlawed the practice of putting people to death, but this is the first time the practice has been found to be unconstitutional. If the recent wave of same-sex marriage decisions is any indicator, this could be merely the first in a series of findings that could bring the United States in line with the rest of the civilized world.