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California Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty Measure

wp paarz / Flickr
 

wp paarz / Flickr

The state of California must move forward with a new, expedited death penalty process that voters approved last election, after the state’s top court largely rejected a legal challenge Thursday, which had temporarily paused implementation.

Proposition 66 expands the pool of attorneys who can defend death row inmates. It restricts certain, common challenges in these cases and allows trial courts to play an expanded role.

But the California Supreme Court unanimously struck down one aspect of the law. Appeals and challenges after a death sentence can take decades, so Proposition 66 called for a five-year limit for courts to decide on them. The justices said that limit infringes on the power of the courts.

California has more than 750 inmates on death row and last carried out an execution in 2006. The state spends $150 million a year on the system.


UPDATE 10:55 a.m.: (AP) The California Supreme Court has upheld a ballot measure narrowly approved by voters to change the state's dysfunctional death penalty system and speed up executions.

The highly anticipated ruling Thursday concerned Proposition 66, a push to "mend not end" capital punishment in California. It aimed to expedite death sentences in part by setting a five-year deadline on court appeals.

A divided state Supreme Court said the five-year deadline was advisory, not mandatory. Supporters of the measure had conceded as much during oral arguments.

The measure beat a competing initiative on the November ballot that would have abolished the death penalty.

Condemned inmates in California currently languish for decades and are more likely to die of natural causes than from lethal injection. There are nearly 750 inmates on death row and only 13 have been executed since 1978 - the last in 2006.


(AP) - California could take a giant step closer to resuming executions when the state Supreme Court issues a highly anticipated ruling on a ballot measure to speed up the state's dysfunctional death penalty system.

The California Supreme Court will rule Thursday on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 66, a push to "mend not end" capital punishment in California. The measure beat a competing initiative on the November ballot that would have abolished the death penalty.

Condemned inmates in California currently languish for decades and are more likely to die of natural causes than from lethal injection. There are nearly 750 inmates on death row and only 13 have been executed since 1978 - the last in 2006.

Proposition 66 aimed to expedite death sentences in part by setting a five-year deadline on court appeals.

Ben Bradford

State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covers California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio 

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