The chief justice of the California Supreme Court said the state’s death penalty has become “dysfunctional” and blamed lawmakers for looking the other way as 650 condemned inmates idle on death row. Ronald George said in an interview with the Associated Press that the Legislature’s inability to adequately fund capital punishment has led to a de facto moratorium on executions in California. “People want to have the death penalty, but they don’t want to pay everything it costs to have it implemented in a judicious manner,” said George.
Although California has the nation’s largest death row, there are no executions in sight as a federal judge considers whether the three-drug cocktail used to put inmates to death in the state is unconstitutionally cruel. A formal death penalty moratorium proposed by some lawmakers failed to get out of an Assembly committee in January. The Legislature’s only recent action has been to approve $223 million last year for a new and larger death row with 768 cells. Lawmakers seem to want it both ways, George said. Like a majority of their constituents, they publicly support the death penalty. But their inactivity has contributed to the malaise that leaves death row inmates languishing for decades at San Quentin State Prison. “The system is very dysfunctional,” said George.