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The Real Reason Behind the Death Penalty Delay in California

You’ve heard of there being a delay in California for the death penalty, but do you know why? Here’s everything you need to know and what you should vote for. The people who live in the state of California are ALWAYS frustrated by the amount of time it takes to go through a death penalty case from start to finish. 

When we talk about from start to finish, we do not just mean for the offender to get slapped with the death penalty, but we mean from the start of their trial until the execution of said inmate. 

You will notice that the most recent executions that we are seeing in California were from murders that happened in the early 1980s and the late 1970s. We are talking about decades! Decades of taking care of these offenders AFTER they have received the death sentence. 

Why is this taking so long for these murderers to be executed? 

One of the main reasons for this major delay that is experienced is that the courts are taking years to certify all required records for these death penalty trials. Getting all required records certified is a MAJOR part of the process before the automatic appeal part can happen within the California Supreme Court. 

Delayed Case Example

For instance, let’s talk about the Dean Carter Case. He committed a murder back in 1984. Carter’s case did not go to a Los Angeles courtroom until 1990. 

Then three and a half years later, Philip Cherney, Carter’s defense attorney finally appointed for Carter’s automatic appeal that must go through the California Supreme Court. 

Then four more years passed before Robert Thomas, the judge in the case finally got around to certifying the court records, which needed to be done prior to going through with the automatic appeal process in the California Supreme Court. 

That right there adds up to 7 and a half years to just certify the required records. All while the friends and family members of the inmate and the murdered victim are all patiently waiting for justice.  

Not to mention the fact that the judge’s attorneys and witnesses have either passed away or moved out of the area and documents could be misplaced, along with memories fading. 

AB 195

AB 195 officially passed in the courts back in 1996. AB 195 was going to be the answer for this delay situation that the state of California had going on. AB 195 was to modify the nonworking Penal Code 190.8, which allowed all death penalty cases that started after the first of January of 1997, would ONLY have 90 to certify the correct documents in the trial court, while another 120 days after there was an appointed appellate attorney to again certify the required records. 

As you once saw, this process could easily take four to five years or longer to do. 

But there have been many of the judges in the state of California that have NOT been following this law whatsoever. To be honest, just a year and a half after the law came into effect, 22 capital court cases still have not received their certified required records. 

Just to show you a little bit more of when these cases started and where they were in California, please refer to the below table. 

County

Supreme

court #

Name

Superior

court #

Sentence

date

Alameda

S064574

Martinez, Michael Matthews

H15696

8/29/97

Thomas

S067519

Keith Tyson

118686B

1/16/98

Kings

S061026

McCurdy, Gene Estel

95CM5316

4/22/97

Los Angeles

S064769

Hawthorne, Carlos Anthony

BA137272

9/5/97

S065467

Mendoza, Ronald Bruce

KA032117

10/24/97

S065573

Becerra, Frank Kalil

BA106878

10/31/97

S066377

Abilez, Frank Manuel

KA031387

12/4/97

S066939

Allen, Michael; J. Cleamon

BA105846

12/12/97

S067394

Capistrano, John Leo

KA034540

1/6/98

S068230

Butler, Raymond Oscar

TA041759

2/20/98

Orange

S064306

Famalaro, John Joseph

94ZF0196

9/5/97

S064733

Abel, John Clyde

95CF1690

9/26/97

S066527

Lindberg, Gunner Jay

96CF0685

12/12/97

Riverside

S060803

Mungia, John

CR59671

4/7/97

S064415

Bramit, Michael Lamar

CR57524

9/8/97

S068863

Scott (III), David Lynn

CR48638

3/19/98

Sacramento

S065720

Vines, Sean Venyette

94F08352

11/7/97

San Bernadino

S065233

Smith, Floyd Daniel

FWV08607

10/16/97

S065707

Page, Terrance Charles

FBA00246

10/31/97

S067678

Mendoza, Martin

FMB01787

12/23/97

San Diego

S062770

Bergman, Lawrence Edward

ECR11082

7/8/97

S067353

Gonzales, Ivan Joe

SCD114421

1/13/98

Please Note: That the above table will NOT include any of the capital cases that started prior to the first of January of 1997. The list only shows the capital cases that started under the AB 195 law. 

One of the main reasons why judges are not scared of the consequences of obeying AB 195 is because there are no consequences to them. 

SB 591

So, in order to fix this issue that is when Senator Morrow brought to the table SB 591. SB 591 is also known as the Senate Public Safety Committee. 

SB 591 is going to take away the judges’ salaries until they go under oath and meet the requirements for certifying the proper documents. It is vital that SB 591 passes and gets put into law. 

Another law that needs to be passed is going to be certification limits for those capital cases that happened prior to the first of January of 1997. Sadly, these capital cases were not included in Penal Code 190.8, so more times than not these cases are experiencing an extreme delay. Of course, in these cases, it will take a bit longer to go over the court records as many of the attorneys and judges has since died or moved on, but something needs to be done to speed up these cases as well. 

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