California to appeal ruling tossing death penalty

SAN FRANCISCO — California’s attorney general said Thursday she will appeal a federal court ruling that called the state’s death penalty unconstitutional.

The announcement by Attorney General Kamala Harris came after U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney in Los Angeles ruled last month that the state’s death penalty takes too long to carry out, and that the unpredictable delays are arbitrary and unfair.

Harris, however, said the amount of time it takes to execute an inmate in California ensures inmates receive due process.

“I am appealing the court’s decision because it is not supported by the law, and it undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants,” Harris said in a prepared statement. “This flawed ruling requires appellate review.”

Death penalty foes had called on Harris to let Carney’s ruling stand rather than risk a reversal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We hope the 9th Circuit will recognize that California’s death penalty system is as broken and unconstitutional as Judge Cormac found,” Matt Cherry, executive director of Death Penalty Focus, which seeks to abolish capital punishment, said in response to the move by Harris.

The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit is often viewed as a liberal-leaning court, but the three-judge panel that will consider the appeal by Harris will be randomly selected from the entire court of more than two dozen judges of varying political pedigrees.

Harris has said she personally opposes the death penalty but promised voters she would enforce state law.

Carney’s ruling overturned the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, a Los Angeles man sentenced to die for the 1992 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s mother.

Since the current death penalty system was adopted 35 years ago, the judge noted, more than 900 people have been sentenced to death but only 13 have been executed.

The judge called the death penalty an empty promise that violates the Eighth Amendment’s protection against 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,” Carney, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote.

He noted that death penalty appeals can last decades and, as a result, most condemned inmates are likely to die of natural causes before their executions are carried out.

No executions have been done in California since 2006 after another federal judge ordered an overhaul of the state’s lethal injection procedures.

In addition, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is drafting new lethal injection regulations after Gov. Jerry Brown said the state would switch from a three-drug cocktail to a single-drug lethal injection. No executions can occur until the new rules are adopted.

More in Local News

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

Jogger unharmed after fending off attacker in Edmonds

Police released video of a man they believe to be the attacker.

Two missing men found, one alive and one dead

The man found alive was found in an apartment across the hallway and taken to a hospital.

Darrington School Board dealing with upheavals

The crux of the controversy seems to be the superintendent’s job.

Alaska Airlines has selected destinations for new service from Paine Field. (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines will fly from Everett to 8 West Coast cities

Two destinations that didn’t make the list were Spokane and Hawaii.

Three teens arrested for Marysville school vandalism

Windows were broken and a trash bin was on fire Sunday night at a Marysville middle school.

Langley mayor threatens newspaper with lawsuit

The mayor threatened to sue the paper over claims he withheld public records disclosure information.

Divers called to recover body after train hits pedestrian

The accident was reported by a BNSF crew near Woods Creek in Monroe.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
A local connection to history

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson remembers The Post’s Katharine Graham, who visited several times.

Most Read