The administration of the death penalty has become completely dysfunctional in California, to use the words of California Chief Justice Ronald M. George. The California Supreme Court is overwhelmed with a backlog of 80 fully briefed death appeals, and 100 fully briefed habeas petitions. California has the longest delays in the county, with 20-24 years elapsing between sentence and execution. With the longest death row in the county (680+), the chief cause of death on death row is death by natural causes, followed by suicide. California has had 13 executions since the death penalty was restored in 1978. The current estimate is that its dysfunctional death penalty law is costing California $230 million per year more than it would cost to process death cases as Life Without Parole cases and confine the guilty for life. This Article will analyze the causes and costs of these delays, as revealed by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, for which Professor Uelmen served as Executive Director and Principal Reporter. This will include: 1. Standards for appointment of counsel, and delays in appointment of counsel. 2. Supreme Court backlogs, and proposals to reduce them by transferring cases to the lower courts. 3. The impact of federal habeas review on state judgments, and reasons for delays in federal court. 4. The growing cost of confinement on death row. 5. The lack of prospects for legislative reform.
Gerald F. Uelmen,
Death Penalty Appeals and Habeas Proceedings: The California Experience,
93 Marq. L. Rev. 495
Available at: http://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/mulr/vol93/iss2/7