California Supreme Court upholds law hastening death penalty
Sunday, August 27, 2017
On Thursday, theupheld a ballot measure, Proposition 66, approved by voters last November which speeds up the death penalty appeals process. The court, however, weakened a provision of the proposition setting a deadline for appeals.
The plaintiff in the case, formersupervisor Ron Briggs, claimed that the proposition was unconstitutional under the which prevents ballot measures from addressing more than one subject. The court disagreed with Briggs' claim, writing that "Proposition 66 is more focused on a single subject" than other measures upheld by the court.
The weakened portioned of the measure would have set a deadline of five years for the appeals process. The court wrote in its opinion for the case, Briggs v. Brown, that "provisions of Proposition 66 that appear to impose strict deadlines on the resolution of judicial proceedings must be deemed directive rather than mandatory" in order to prevent difficulties with the.
The new measure movesreview from the Supreme Court to the lower courts. Habeas corpus review allows those convicted to contest procedures from during the trial process, such as possible problems with jurors. The measure also ended public review of execution methods.
Briggs had also challenged how the proposition affects habeas corpus review, but the court ruled in favor the defendants.
Five justices, of the court's seven, signed the majority opinion. Two justices were defendants in the case as part of theand recused themselves, and two alternate justices were brought in from appeals courts in and . The council is responsible for making policy for the state's courts.
Currently, the appeals process for death penalty cases can last for years or even decades. The ballot measure sought to speed this up. It could affect 15 or more inmates currently sitting onwho have already completed the appeals process.
The state has not conducted any executions since 2006. A federal court imposed a moratorium on the use of California's lethal injection method in 2006 after a challenge to the methods used. This order remains in effect, so the state must first receive approval from the federal court regarding its method before it is allowed to resume executions. In January a proposal to conduct lethal injection with a single drug was rejected by a state agency.
There were 747 people on California's death row as of Thursday according to the state corrections department. The state applies the death penalty for several crimes including murder, treason against the state, train wrecking causing death, and perjury causing the execution of another. Lethal injection is one of two methods used by the state for executing inmates. The gas chamber remains an option for inmates who elect that method of execution.
While voters approved Proposition 66 last November with 51% voting yes, another ballot measure to repeal the death penalty, Proposition 62, was rejected by voters in the same election with 53% voting against.
- "Penal Code of California" — , August 27, 2017 (date of access)
- Alexei Koseff and Adam Ashton. "Supreme Court upholds law to speed up executions in California, but relaxes deadlines" — , August 24, 2017
- Maura Dolan. "Executions could resume after California Supreme Court leaves most of Proposition 66 intact" — , August 24, 2017
- California Supreme Court. "Briggs v. Brown" — , August 24, 2017
- Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. "Condemned Inmates List" — , August 24, 2017
- Alexei Koseff. "California rejects proposed new death penalty rules" — , January 4, 2017
- Secretary of State. "Statement of Vote, November 8, 2016" — , December 16, 2016