On Wednesday, a federal judge in California ruled that the death penalty in the state is unconstitutional, according to CNN. Judge Cormac J. Carney, from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, issued the ruling when vacating the death sentence of Ernest D. Jones from 1995.
Judge Carney wrote the following in his ruling: “Allowing this system to continue to threaten Mr. Jones with the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after he was first sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”
He also labeled the administration of the death penalty system in the state as ‘dysfunctional.’
More than 900 people in California have been sentenced to death row since 1978 and they spent 23 hours alone in their cells. Of the 900 sentenced to death, just 13 have been executed while 94 others have died from other causes. According to Carney, 40 percent have been sitting on death row for more than 19 years.
A moratorium on the death penalty was issued in the state in 2006. No one has been executed since then, which leaves 748 people on death row.
In his ruling, Carney said, “in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed.”
Prosecutors are expected to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for raping and killing the mother of his girlfriend, Julia Miller.
In 2003, the California Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Jones on first-degree murder and rape charges. The California Supreme Court in 2003 upheld the conviction of Jones on first-degree murder and rape charges.