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California’s death row grows as death sentences decline nationwide

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FLASHBACK POST DECEMBER 2009-Los Angeles County sent more people to death row this year than Texas, Florida or any other state in the nation.

Death sentences issued across the country this year will reach its lowest level since capital punishment was as reinstated in 1976.

Richard Dieter,head of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit database maintained by capital punishment opponents, attributed California’s continued pursuit of death sentences to a lack of public debate about the economics of the policy, which he said costs the state $137 million a year more than if the defendants were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

[The following article is a cut and past according to interest and brevity since it is a long article.]

California’s Death row grows as death sentences decline nationwide

 

L.A. Times

By Carol J. Williams and Jack Leonard December 19, 2009

Posted in Big Bear Observation Post, on 2009 December 26 by BBVM) California’s increase occurred [of convictions] despite legal challenges that have left the state’s lethal injection chamber idle for the last four years. Any resumption of executions is still at least a year off, experts said. The 2009 capital sentences have helped push the state’s condemned population to 697, the nation’s largest by far.

Los Angeles County helped California buck that trend, boosting the state’s death sentences from 20 last year to 29 so far this year, more than a quarter of the nationwide total of 106, according to a report released Friday by the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. The center attributed the national decline to deepening concerns about the costs of capital punishment and the possibility of wrongful convictions.

The trend has caused concern among defense attorneys who handle death cases. Lawyers suggested that some judges have played a role by placing strict limits on the time attorneys get to question prospective jurors about their attitudes toward the death penalty. Others said they believe jurors have become more cynical about evidence of a defendant’s abusive childhood.

The District Attorney of Los Angeles County, Stephen Lawrence Cooley cautioned against reading too much into this year’s figures, saying the rise could be a fluke of courtroom scheduling. Capital cases typically take years to wind through the courts before reaching a jury.

L.A. County prosecutors have been seeking death in fewer cases than they did a decade ago, but the percentage resulting in death verdicts has grown, records show.

“We started being more selective and more rigorous in our review,” Cooley said. “It’s certainly not being more aggressive.”

The high cost of prosecuting capital cases, he said, is only one factor that the office weighs in deciding when to seek death.

Currently, Texas has 342 people on death row. “We don’t really let them stack up here, like in California,” Texas District and County Attorneys Association, Sarah Wolf said.

To read the entire L.A. Times article, click here

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Branson Hunter

(This story was posted by Cactus Thorn contributor Branson Hunter)

"The ends do not justify the means." If you use illegal mean to accomplish a legal and even desirable result, the good result does not make the bad means you used justifiable.

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