Death penalty appeals make up one-third of California Supreme Court’s caseload.
According to a 2013 report by Paula Mitchell for Verdict Justia.com, “the backlog at the Supreme Court is now so severe that it is taking almost 20 years for the court to decide direct appeals in death penalty cases.”
“Death Row inmates begin their state and federal habeas corpus proceedings, for which they are also provided publicly funded counsel, and which typically drag on for at least another 10 years,” according to the report.
Despite this caseload, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye “does not expect executions in California to resume for at least three years because of problems with the lethal injection process.”
Cantil-Sakauye explained, “The one-drug protocol has to comply with California’s Administrative Procedures Act, and the switch will delay the potential resumption of death penalty executions in California for possibly several years.”
“In July 2013,” the report said, “Gov. Brown announced that the state would switch from a three-drug lethal injection protocol to a one-drug sodium thiopental protocol for lethal injection, already in use in other states.” The one drug is already in very short supply.
Earlier in 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia told the FDA that sodium thiopental was not an approved drug. It was not to be imported and administered for executions.
San Quentin State Prison currently has more than 725 inmates on Death Row.
Nineteen inmates have arrived at on S.Q. Death Row since voters opposed Proposition 34 to eliminate the death penalty last November.
According to the report, “majority of defendants are people of color. Fifteen of the 19 are Hispanics and four are African-American.” Thirteen of the nineteen death sentences were imposed in Los Angeles (7) and Riverside (6).
The National Registry of Exoneration, a joint project launched by Michigan and Northwestern Law Schools, “revealed that California ranks first in the nation in the number of wrongful convictions.”
Last November the United Nations General Assembly voted 110 to 39 in favor of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.