The death penalty is an aberration. It is a terminal punishment for a justice system with flaws. The image of an innocent person who spent many years in prison because of mistakes is unfortunately way too common.
California has kept this punishment, while at the same time it has a lengthy legal process supposedly designed to protect those sentenced to death. The result is a process that takes about 25 years, most of them in state courts.
Federal Judge Cormac Carney found this week that this process represents a “cruel and unusual” punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment.
The ruling confronts the contradiction of wanting to implement a punishment like the death penalty with all the possible legal protections. The result is that today there are 900 people with death sentences, and there have been 13 executions since 1978. In contrast, 94 inmates have died of causes like old age, illness and suicide.
The most worrisome part, according to the judge, is that “arbitrary factors” that are completely unrelated to the nature of the crime or the date of sentencing are what decide who gets executed.
In the case of California, speeding up executions and running the risk of killing an innocent person is not the solution to the judge’s concern.
The most advisable course is the one followed by the 18 states that do not have the death penalty.
Carney’s ruling began a path that has increasing support from Californians. In 1978, more than 71% of voters supported expanding capital punishment; two years ago, only 52% were in favor of the death penalty, and the percentage continues to decrease.
Undoubtedly, other courts will review Carney’s decision. We hope this ruling is the first step in leaving behind an extreme punishment that is unworthy of an advanced society like ours.