The United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California has reversed a ruling that would have abolished capital punishment in the state. Originally, the death penalty was determined to be unconstitutional based on the fact that appeals tend to take a very long time. The panel of three judges from the appeals court unanimously ruled that long delays on death row are not a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
The case has revolved around death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was first sentenced to death almost two decades ago. Since then, Jones has been stuck in limbo, facing a multitude of delays and appeals. Jones was convicted of killing and raping his girlfriend’s mother Julia Miller. Jones had already served time for a separate raping.
The ruling which would have ended the death penalty in the state was made by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney on July 16, 2014. Carney was appointed to his position by former President George W. Bush.
In his ruling, Carney said, “Delays had created a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed.”
Carney also noted that the death row inmates who are eventually executed will have sat around in limbo for so long that their executions will serve no purposes of retribution or deterrence, making the executions completely pointless.
Carney wrote, “No rational person can question that the execution of an individual carries with it the solemn obligation of the government to ensure that the punishment is not arbitrarily imposed and that it furthers the interests of society.”
Many legal experts are not surprised by the ruling of the appeals court judges, saying that some of the judges expressed skepticism of the matter during a hearing that took place in August.
It is unknown when Jones is set to be executed. For now, it is very possible that the matter will make its way to the Supreme Court.