California Attorney General Kamala Harris says she personally opposes the death penalty, but she's vowed to preserve it for voters.
Thus, she'll ask the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a landmark decision by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney of Orange County, who ruled that condemning people to death is unconstitutional.
Carney ruled on a petition by inmate Ernest Dwayne Jones, who has awaited for nearly two decades. He was sentenced in 1995, following an emotional murder trial that brought the victim's family, Jones' public defender, and even the judge to tears.
To lock a person in a small cell for an “inordinate and unpredictable period of delay,” with death always hanging over his head, violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, Carney concluded earlier this month.
[jump] His decision hearkened to a famous quote by the French writer Albert Camus, who deemed capital punishment “the most premeditated of murders.”
“Such a monster is not encountered in private life,” Camus wrote.
Carney's decision emboldened death penalty opponents, and reinvigorated a national debate over the morality of capital punishment. Still, it only affected the case of Ernest Dwayne Jones. An appeals court decision would affect all of California and other western states, the Los Angeles Times notes. That could seal the fate of the nearly 900 people who've been sentenced to death since 1978, only 13 of whom have actually been executed.
Or it could keep them in agonizing limbo.