What is the Current Status of the Death Penalty in California?

Ask two people you know what their opinion on the death penalty is and you’ll probably get two different answers. There has always been a lot of debate on the topic in this country. There has been so much pressure over the years that 20 states have abolished the death penalty.

Technically, the death penalty is still alive and well in California. However, it has not really been enforced since 2006. That was when the governor of California placed a moratorium on the death penalty. It had happened once before in 1997 as well.

The death penalty was found to possibly be unconstitutional. This is why there hasn’t been an execution since 2006. The last man to be executed in California was Clarence Ray Allen who was killed by lethal injection on January 17, 2006.

Since then, no death row prisoner in California has been killed. And, it looks like the moratorium on the death penalty will continue for at least a few more years. Current Governor Gavin Newsom issued a new moratorium on the death penalty in early March of this year.

Why Did Governor Newsom Place the Recent Moratorium on the Death Penalty?

The Governor has issued a new moratorium on the death penalty. It will stay in effect at least until Newsom finishes out his term. But, as long as he’s in office, the death penalty will be put on ice.

This doesn’t mean that people on death row will be released from prison. In fact, these prisoners are still on death row and will remain there for the indefinite future. The moratorium also doesn’t change the status of anyone’s convictions or sentences.

The moratorium simply says that no death row prisoners can be executed until further notice. This was based on the following reasons:

  • There is no public safety benefit
  • The death penalty does not act as a criminal deterrent
  • It has wasted billions of dollars in taxpayer money
  • It can cause potentially irreparable harm to innocent people

The Governor cited a handful of friends or associates who had family members wrongfully convicted. He stated that the risk of an innocent person being killed is just too great to allow executions to proceed.

Does This Mean the Death Penalty Has Been Repealed?

The Governor cannot repeal the death penalty in California. The only way this could happen is if the voters in California decided to do so. And, the last two times this has been put to a vote, it was rejected.

In fact, there was a proposition in the last election where the voters were given the option of speeding up the execution process. Proposition 62 would have accelerated the appeals process so that executions would take place faster.

This Proposition would save the taxpayers billions of dollars. The Proposition was defeated but only by a slim margin. The Governor certainly wouldn’t have supported this Proposition. His fear is that innocent people would be executed. Speeding up the execution timeline would only worsen this risk.

What Does this Mean for Defendants in California?

If you or your loved one are facing capital murder charges in California, you absolutely need to stay on top of this issue. Not only can it affect whether or not you get the death penalty, but it also changes how your San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyers handles your case.

With the death penalty on the table, the State has all the power when it comes to negotiating a plea bargain. If the death penalty isn’t an option, it may lead to lesser sentences for all defendants accused of murder.

Basically, the repeal of the death penalty would mean that the ultimate possible sentence changes from death to life in prison. It takes a giant card out of the State’s playbook. Your criminal defense lawyer in San Diego will use this to your advantage

Contact a Criminal Lawyer in San Diego

Chances are, you’re not facing the death penalty in California. However, you may have been charged with very serious criminal charges recently. It’s important that you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side.

When your freedom is at stake, you don’t want to handle it yourself. The prosecutor will take a private defense lawyer a lot more serious than they will a pro se defendant. And, like it or not, they’ll give more credence to a defendant who hires a lawyer than one represented by a public defender.

If you’re facing criminal charges, call and schedule your initial consultation with a skilled defense lawyer in San Diego today.