November 27, 2010

Death row logjam in California

L.A. Times: Critical shortage of appellate lawyers

With 700 prisoners, California's Death Row is the largest in the United States. But almost half of the condemned will not be executed any time soon; they are still waiting for attorneys to handle their appeals.

Despite a glut of attorneys in the state, few are willing or qualified to tackle post-conviction appeals. Each condemned prisoner gets an automatic appeal to the state supreme court, after which they can file a habeas corpus petition challenging their conviction. The wait for habeas counsel averages 10 to 12 years, a bottleneck that the state's high court calls "critical."

The work is draining both emotionally and financially, say the few attorneys who do habeas work.

"It's a big toll on people to have clients on death row," attorney Lynne Coffin told Los Angeles Times reporter Maura Dolan. "Even if they are nowhere near execution, they are very needy. Most have no family connections anymore, no money, no friends, so the lawyer becomes the source of everything."

Coffin, who at 61 years old handles capital cases almost exclusively, said witnessing the executions of two clients was disturbing. "And I am not going to any more."

The full story, in today's L.A. Times, is HERE.

High cost a factor in public support for death penalty alternatives

Meanwhile, a national poll of 1,500 registered voters shows growing support for alternatives to the death penalty. A majority of voters (61 percent) would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder, including life with no possibility of parole and with restitution to the victim’s family (39 percent), life with no possibility of parole (13 percent), or life with the possibility of parole (9 percent), said the center, which opposes capital punishment.

Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed said cost was a very or somewhat convincing argument against the death penalty. Voters ranked emergency services, creating jobs, police and crime prevention, schools and libraries, public health care services, and roads and transportation as more important budget priorities than the death penalty. Two-thirds of those surveyed would favor replacing the death penalty with life with no possibility of parole if the money saved were used to fund crime prevention programs.

The survey was conducted by the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. It can be found HERE.

1 comment:

Steve said...

The DPIC poll really smacks of a lack of credibility as these posts point out: