On July 16, 2014, United States District Judge Cormac Carney vacated a
death sentence against Ernest Dewayne Jones because it violated the eighth
amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
In the case in question, Ernest Dewayne Jones was sentenced to death on
April 7, 1995. Since 1978, California has sentenced 900 people to death.
13 have been executed and only 81 have received a final determination
of their habeas petition. Of the 17 currently awaiting execution, all
of them have been on death row for more than 25 years.
The problem before the court was not a question of the defendant's
guilt. The problem was time. The eighth amendment prohibits cruel and
unusual punishment. The death penalty system is so plagued by significant
delays that few are ever really executed. For every one execution, seven
inmates have died of natural causes. The average delay of 25 years is
not getting shorter, it is getting longer. There has not been an execution
in California for nearly 8 years. It is estimated to carry out all of
the executions of inmates presently on death row it would take 14 years,
if one execution was carried out every week.
The court thusly concluded that the penalty was effectively a sentence
of life with a remote possibility of death; a type of sentence that no
one would impose.
The executions that may take place will not be determined by the number
of persons killed or even the date that the inmate arrived on death row.
Rather, the determining factor is the speed with which the inmate goes
through the post-conviction appeal process.
Based upon the above, the court determined the death penalty has lost any
deterrent effect it ever had. Judge Carney also held that the delays are
only the inmates fault in isolated incidents. The fault overall is the
I believe the Court's reasoning is inescapable. The system does not
work. The penalties are not carried out. It must be changed.
When you add the cost to the citizens of the state of California for a
death penalty conviction, it appears the time has come to do away with
the death penalty. It is hard to imagine that anyone would think any inmate
is getting a break by having his sentence changed to life without the
possibility of parole. That is essentially what it is now.
Contact the Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs if you or a loved one has been
charged with a crime. Put his 30 years of experience and knowledge to
work for you.