Articles Tagged with habeas corpus

Before the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice (CCFAJ), then California Chief Justice Ronald George testified that “California’s death penalty system is dysfunctional.” A review of year-end statistics certainly confirms the former Chief Justice’s conclusion.

While the death penalty appears to be waning across the country, California remains somewhat of an outlier. In 2010, California courts sentenced 34 persons to death, which accounted for nearly a third of of the death judgments nationwide. And within the state, Los Angeles County, Riverside County and Orange County have become, as the ACLU put it, “killer counties.” They accounted for 83% of the death sentences in 2009, while representing 41% of the population. That year, Los Angeles County sentenced more people to death than any other state, much less any other California county. Of the 34 death cases, almost 62% were from these three counties.

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Last week, I viewed the FRONTLINE program The Confessions, a documentary about the Norfolk Four. For me, the video really reinforced the importance of the Bill of Rights and its role in protecting the innocent. The Fifth Amendment states that “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” Popularized by the Miranda warning, the privilege against self-incrimination requires that the police adhere to certain procedural safeguards in recognition of the intimidating nature of incommunicado police interrogation. When people fail to forcefully assert their right to remain silent, the results can be tragic.

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