Despite spending more than any other state on its implementation and administration, California today is saddled with a death penalty law that can be described only as completely dysfunctional. We have the longest death row in America, with approximately 670 inmates awaiting execution. Typically, the lapse of time between sentence and execution is twenty-five years, twice the national average, and is growing wider each year. One hundred nineteen inmates have spent more than twenty years on California's death row. Most of them will certainly die before they are ever executed. Since restoration of the death penalty in 1978, the leading cause of death on California's death row has been death by natural causes (38),followed by suicides (14) and executions (13). For all practical purposes, a sentence of death in California is a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The only difference is that the individual serves the life sentence on death row, while the state forks out millions of dollars to process appeals and habeas corpus proceedings. Additionally, the cost of confinement is quadruple what it would be if the individual was serving the life sentence in a maximum security prison, where those sentenced to life imprisonment normally serve their sentences. How did we create this mess?
Gerald F. Uelmen,
Death Penalty Appeals and Habeas Proceedings: The California Experience
, 93 Marq. L. Rev. 495
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/facpubs/97