CA Executions Will Happen Sooner Under Court Ruling

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Lawyers on opposing sides of Thursday’s California Supreme Court ruling on executions agreed that the case was likely to lead to executions being carried out sooner and more often in a state that last put a prisoner to death in January 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.  “Prop. 66 will go into effect very nearly in its entirety,” said Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, an author of the ballot measure. Although federal courts must still review the state’s lethal-injection procedures, Scheidegger expects executions to resume within a year. Christina Von der Ahe Rayburn, who represented opponents of Prop. 66, agreed that the measure is likely to speed up executions despite the high court’s invalidation of a five-year deadline to resolve cases. She said the ruling wasn’t the last word, because condemned prisoners can still argue that the new rules are invalid in their individual cases.

Voters approved Prop. 66 by a 51 percent majority while rejecting, for the second time in four years, a competing measure to repeal the state’s death penalty law. California has the nation’s largest death row, with nearly 750 inmates, about half of whom have been there for at least 20 years. Appeals of death verdicts now take more than two decades to resolve, on average. Prosecutors and crime-victims’ groups who backed Prop. 66 told voters the measure would cut that period in half by requiring faster court action, limiting some types of appeals, and requiring more lawyers to accept capital cases. Opponents argued that the measure would cause even longer delays, because of court challenges and legal uncertainties about its provisions. They said it would coerce unwilling and unqualified lawyers to handle capital appeals and swamp the state’s high court with death cases.

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