A California judge declared the death penalty unconstitutional on Wednesday in a notable ruling, NBC Bay Area reports.
U.S. District Court of Orange Country Judge Cormac J. Carney, a George Bush appointee, delivered the opinion.
Because of delays and inconsistencies, he said the entire capital punishment system violates the 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
In Carney’s mind, the death penalty can’t serve as a deterrent to crimes when the state administers the punishment to so few people. While 900 prisoners have been sentenced to die in California since 1978, only 13 have actually been executed, he noted in his opinion.
These delays have transformed the death penalty, “deliberately imposed” by juries, into a sentence “no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death,” Carney writes. Therefore, the waiting-game the death penalty forces prisoners to play violates the Constitution’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
Natasha Minsker, associate director of the ACLU of Northern California, live-tweeted the decision from the court room. Carney delivered some scathing quotes there, too.
Carney’s decision came in response to a petition filed by Ernest Dewayne Jones, a prisoner sentenced to die nearly two decades ago, according to the Los Angeles Times. Jones was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Julia Miller in 1995. Then, in 2003, a jury denied his appeal for a retrial.
In overturning Jones’ sentence, Carney noted that the prisoner waited in “complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether, [his execution] will ever come.”
Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris’ office is reviewing the decision, a spokesman told the Times.