Criminal Justice

Fed'l Judge: Execute Inmates Efficiently

California’s death row is not only the biggest in the nation but perhaps the most backlogged. The average prisoner waits nearly 20 years to be executed, and, since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978, only 13 have been executed while 50 have died in prison, many of old age. Currently, the state has 667 inmates on death row.

But a longtime federal judge in California has some suggestions for the state about how to run execution operations more efficiently, reports the Los Angeles Times. A lack of funding is the basic problem, writes Arthur L. Alarcon, 81, a veteran jurist on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles, in a recent Southern California Law Review article. He calls for paying appellate lawyers more to encourage them to take difficult cases. Plus, he would make state appellate courts responsible, rather than solely the California Supreme Court, for automatic death penalty reviews, subject to state supreme court oversight.

Of course, there may be a reason why the death penalty system has operated so inefficiently for so long, Alarcon told a Times reporter in an interview. “There may be no interest on the political side in doing something. They may be comfortable with a de facto abolition of capital punishment.”

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