A Federal Judge struck down California's death penalty. US District Judge Cormac Carney found that the lengthy delays create uncertainty for death row inmates, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.
Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State. It 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.
My book The Executioner's Toll, 2010, released in April made those very arguments:
Let's say that death penalty verdicts continue at 2010's pace of 112 per year for the next ten years. There would be approximately 4,500 men and women on death row. Let's say that all 34 states with the death penalty executed one offender a month for the next ten years; these occurrences are not completely realistic since only eight states have more than 120 offenders on death row. After ten years at that frantic, and frankly impossible, pace, there would be 4,300 executions, still leaving about 200 people on death row.
Carrying out an execution today is as freakishly arbitrary as imposing the death penalty was in 1972. If you are one of 697 inmates on California’s death row, a state that has not carried out an execution in five years, and suddenly you are scheduled for execution—that is a lot like being struck by lightning.