California lawmaker seeks death penalty review

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After hearing testimony from former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a key California legislator wants a special commission to study the state’s death penalty. State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) cited racial and geographic disparities in the imposition of capital punishment, the Los Angeles Times reported. Three years ago, Ryan halted executions in Illinois after 13 death row inmates had been exonerated and freed since 1977. Ryan formed a blue-ribbon commission that called for sweeping changes, but the Legislature declined to act. Before his term expired in January, Ryan commuted the death sentences of 167 inmates. He urged California to study its own system.

Gov. Gray Davis, a death penalty supporter, said that “unlike Illinois, not one of the [622] inmates on California’s death row has demonstrated innocence by DNA or other evidence.” Michael Laurence, executive director of the state’s Habeas Corpus Resource Center said that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has found serious constitutional problems in 74% of the cases that it has fully reviewed from California.


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