From Volume 80, Number 4 (May 2007)
The unconscionable delay in the disposition of appeals and habeas corpus proceedings filed on behalf of California’s death row inmates continues to increase at an alarming rate. It is now almost double the national average. Procedural changes must be made to the manner in which death penalty judgments are reviewed to avoid imprisoning a death penalty inmate for decades before the condemned prisoner’s constitutional claims are finally resolved.
This Article identifies the woeful inefficiencies of the current procedures that have led to inexcusable delays in arriving at just results in death penalty cases and describes how California came to find itself in this untenable condition. It also recommends structural and procedural changes designed to reduce delay and promote fairness. These recommendations include: transferring exclusive jurisdiction over automatic appeals from judgments of death away from the California Supreme Court to the California Courts of Appeal; requiring that capital case state habeas corpus petitions be filed in the trial court with the right to appeal to the California Courts of Appeal, rather than filing the petitions with the Supreme Court in the first instance; providing adequate training and compensation for counsel appointed to represent indigent death row inmates; and providing continuity of counsel for state and federal habeas corpus proceedings. These changes would significantly reduce delay and promote a more just resolution for death penalty inmates and society.