The execution yesterday of killer Donald Beardslee ended a three-year California hiatus in executions, but it is unlikely to break a significant break in the logjam on the state’s death row, the nation’s largest with 639 inmates, says the New York Times. “These cases tend to be independent of one another,” said Dane R. Gillette, a senior assistant attorney general. “It is hit or miss as to how long it takes to get through” the courts. Beardslee, 61, was on death row for nearly 21 years; the average stay for the 11 inmates executed in California since the death penalty was re-enacted by the state in 1977 has been 16 years.
Gerald Uelmen, a professor of law at the Santa Clara University School of Law, said that nothing more than smart politics should be read into Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to reject Beardslee’s petition for clemency. “It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a first-term governor would not commute a death sentence,” said Professor Uelmen, an opponent of capital punishment. “Governors with further ambition don’t want the label hung around their neck that they are soft on crime or soft on the death penalty.” Though no executions are on the calendar, prison officials have been informed that as many as four more could be scheduled this year.