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October 2, 2010

Noticing the many costs of California's capital craziness

California had quite a death penalty week, with lots of litigation and lots of stops and starts and stops again in its effort to finally execute Albert Brown three decades after he raped and murdered a teenage girl.  These two different follow-up articles highlight just some of the costs imposed by California's capital craziness:

From the California Progress Report, this piece headlined "California's $4 Million Rollercoaster Ride" starts and ends this way:

California’s death penalty has always been a bit of a head-scratcher, but the news over the last two weeks may have the record for furrowed brows and rolled eyes. The legal drama that has unfolded as the state tries to execute Albert Brown has shocked legal experts, but just confused everyone else....

Albert Brown could have been sentenced to die in prison 28 years ago and the people of California could have forgotten all about him. Instead, we’ve spent months in court and over $4 million to end up right back where we started, with Albert Brown in prison.

From the Los Angeles Times, this piece headlined "Execution delay has caused 'profound and unfathomable' distress to victim's family" starts this way:

This week's delay in the execution of Albert G. Brown Jr. has caused the family of the woman he raped and strangled "profound and unfathomable" distress.

In an e-mail Thursday to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Karen Jordan Brown wrote that "the appeals process in California has proven to be nothing more than a never-ending war of attrition against justice and the rights of victims and their families."

Jordan Brown’s sister, Susan Jordan, 15, was abducted by Albert Brown, who is not related, in 1980 while she walked to Arlington High School in Riverside. Albert Brown then raped and strangled the girl. He has been on death row since his conviction in 1982 and was scheduled to be put to death Thursday in what would have been California’s first execution in five years.

The execution was put on hold Wednesday, after a week of legal wrangling between Albert Brown’s attorney and the state attorney general’s office over whether a lethal injection should be administered.

Some related posts:

October 2, 2010 at 10:41 AM | Permalink


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"In an e-mail Thursday to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Karen Jordan Brown wrote that 'the appeals process in California has proven to be nothing more than a never-ending war of attrition against justice and the rights of victims and their families.'"

...meaning that the appeals process will have to change. At present, the "appeals process" means allowing the defendant to appeal WITHOUT LIMIT. A system with even slight respect for itself would allow no such thing.

In this case, there was no doubt of factual guilt, the crime was horrendous, and the method of execution was the one the Supreme Court itself approved in Baze. Given the gross abuse of the appeals process demonstrated here (and still on-going), the legislature should adopt a rule that, once the defendant (1) has had a full chance for direct appeal, (2) a chance for colatteral review, (3) is factually guilty beyond any rational doubt, the courts are stipped of jurisdiction to entertain any further litigation in the case.

For those who don't like this remedy, I ask: What's your alternative? This killer has turned the system into a joke. Is this really your idea of how the law should operate? That a killer NO ONE CLAIMS IS INNOCENT should be able to continue laughing at the system TWENTY EIGHT YEARS after the murder?

We can do better than this (Virginia does much better, for example). It's past time to start.

P.S. My question about alternatives is not directed to 100% abolitionists. The DP is going to stay on California's books (and should), so my question is directed to how it is to be implemented without the circus we have seen in this case.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 2, 2010 11:52:44 AM

Maybe we could start by political pressure on the California Supreme Court justices who cruelly pulled the rug out from under Jordan's family.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 2, 2010 2:29:44 PM

Given the timing I'd love to see this become an important issue in the California governor's race.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 2, 2010 2:40:00 PM

What's amazing to me is that people blame the state. First of all, Brown had ample opportunity to join the Morales case, yet did not. Then when he was soon to meet the "big jab" he suddenly joins it. Moreover, the state had a presumptively valid procedure in place--why wouldn't it get a date set promptly?

This judicial micromanagement of the execution process is utterly ridiculous. In Oklahoma, a federal judge continues to stay executions simply because Oklahoma is switching from thiopental to some other sedative. Judge Friot should read Baze. Baze simply does not contemplate any federal judicial inquiry (or stays) unless the murderer makes specific showings, and that hasn't happened. Yet the judge stays the execution anyway. This is unacceptable. The law is resoundingly clear here. So why won't judges follow it? There's only one conclusion--that they are bending the law in favor of murderers to the detriment of victim's families. And before anyone whines about my conclusion--please explain how Baze allows a stay in the Oklahoma case.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 2, 2010 4:05:46 PM

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