Capital punishment in California is too flawed to be effective and is crippled by an appeals backlog that delays punishment for crimes, said a state Senate-appointed panel ‘s report quoted by the Sacramento Bee. The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice reported yesterday on the death penalty, the first official review of the practice since it was reinstated in 1978. The state’s death-penalty system must undergo a multimillion-dollar upgrade – an investment that voters must weigh in on – to lessen the nation’s longest time between conviction and execution, the panel said.
Alternatives the commission offered were to narrow the field of defendants eligible for the death penalty or to abolish it. Both measures would ignite controversy, but would potentially save rather than cost money. Keeping someone on death row costs $92,000 annually above the cost of a year at a maximum-security state prison. The cost of appeals can be three times the cost of the original trial. At least 70 percent of death-row judgments that are appealed to the state high court result in new hearings, with ineffective counsel the typical reason.