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STUDIES: Death Sentences in California Show Arbitrariness of the System

A new report released by the ACLU of Northern California reveals that only three counties–Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside–accounted for 83% of the state's death sentences in 2009. Los Angeles County, with 13 death sentences, was the leading death penalty county in the entire country last year. According to the report, California, with the largest death row in the country, spends $137 million annually on the death penalty, while the state is cutting back on many vital services. The report also indicated an increase in the Latino population of California's death row in recent years; 50% of the death sentences in 2007 were for Latinos even though they comprised only 36% of the state's population.

The executive summary of the report concluded, "A shift to permanent imprisonment would mean significant savings in a time of fiscal crisis, would eliminate the risk of executing the innocent, and would lead to more consistent policies across all California counties. California is on track to spend $1 billion on the death penalty in the next five years, though even more funds are required to protect the innocent from wrongful conviction and to ensure timely review of lengthy death penalty cases. For all the money dedicated to the death penalty in California, only 1 out of 100 people sentenced to death has actually been executed during the last thirty years."  Click here for the full report.


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EDITORIALS: "Denial of Death: Time to End Capital Punishment"

An editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune recently called for an end to capital punishment, stating that "the legal, moral and practical arguments against capital punishment have evolved from sound to unassailable" since the punishment was reinstated over 30 years ago. The editorial points to the fallibility of the system as a major concern, citing the Death Penalty Information Center's report that nine inmates have been exonerated and released from death row in 2009 alone. The arbitrary nature of the death penalty system that places racial minorities and the poor at a greater disadvantage, as well as the cost of applying the death penalty compared to its alternatives, were also of concern. Read the full text below.


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