Crime & Justice

Court considers if California death penalty is cruel, unusual

Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the death penalty ruling in the case of a Los Angeles man sentenced to die for the 1992 rape and murder of his girlfriend's mother.
Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the death penalty ruling in the case of a Los Angeles man sentenced to die for the 1992 rape and murder of his girlfriend's mother.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

A federal appeals court heard arguments Monday about whether California's death penalty is unconstitutional because of excessive delays.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took up the case Monday after a federal judge ruled that delays amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. See video of the proceedings below. 

Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the ruling in the case of a Los Angeles man sentenced to die for the 1992 rape and murder of his girlfriend's mother.

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney ruled last year that the death penalty was an empty promise with unpredictable delays that have seldom led to executions while jamming the state's death row.

The three judges in the Pasadena courtroom Monday focused mainly on a procedural question of whether the killer raised those issues at the California Supreme Court.

Fourteen death row inmates have been executed since 1978. One—Kelvin Malone—was executed in Missouri in 1999. Meanwhile 68 death row inmates have died of natural causes since 1978, and another 24 have committed suicide, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation data.

Deaths of Condemned California Inmates Since 1978