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California judge rules the state's death penalty unconstitutional
July 17, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
A federal judge in California has ruled that the state's death penalty unconstitutional.
Judge Cormac J. Carney has ruled that the death penalty is "cruel and unusual punishment" because it is handed down arbitrarily and there are too many delays. Hundreds of people are on death row in California but no one has been executed in the state since 2006, according to The New York Times. The Times gravely notes that Carney's ruling is likely to inspire challenges to the death penalty in other states. So it should.
I would go further than Carney and state that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment precisely because it causes death. Once the state has killed someone, it cannot bring the condemned back to life even if he is later proven innocent. Just how many innocents do you suppose have been killed by the state in this country's 238-year-old existence? How many men and women have been killed in painful and inhumane ways, which is also a clear violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Even in cases where the accused is clearly guilty, there are sometimes mitigating factors, such as the age of the defendant or mental illness or developmental disabilities or impairment due to use of drugs and alcohol.
The death penalty is also cruel because the deliberate taking of a human life is always cruel, regardless of whether it is state-sanctioned. It is likely also cruel not only to the person who is being executed but also to those who are called upon to witness the death of the condemned and to the man or woman who is required to carry out the sentence. The death penalty is unnecessary for public safety when a life sentence without parole is an option. As currently practiced, it is more akin to vengeance. The death penalty is also now "unusual" in the world since few, if any, other Western countries currently make use of the death penalty.
Carney's order will be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Hopefully, it will inspire challenges to the death penalty in other jurisdictions.
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