Recently, a non-profit organization that studies death penalties surveyed the counties in the United States to rank the current number of death row inmates. Los Angeles County had the most inmates who had death sentences at 228 and, therefore, was number 1. San Diego County had 40 such inmates, but came in the top 10 counties along with Orange, Riverside and Alameda Counties.


California has the largest number of death row inmates in the United States with 725. In sharp contrast, the state of Texas has no death row inmates, having 38% of the executions in the nation. The last execution in San Diego was in 1992. California has had an unofficial moratorium on executions since 2006. More recently, a Court of Appeals Decision in May, 2013 now requires California to adopt a new lethal injection protocol since the three-drug lethal injection protocol was held to be not in compliance with administrative rules. Governor Jerry Brown has under consideration a single-drug lethal injection protocol. Due to the administrative law process, it could take a year or longer to approve the new protocol. Nonetheless, the single-drug manufacturers object to their use in lethal injections; this creates an additional hurdle once the method is approved.


In 1976, the US Supreme Court in the case of Gregg vs. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (Case #74-6257) determined the death penalty (capital punishment) is legal and valid within the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution.

Those who oppose the imposition of the death penalty, however, argue it is morally wrong and in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution as it is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. They also argue it is randomly applied and, therefore, arbitrary. For those that think it cost less than a prison life sentence, the opposite is true—as it has been reported that the cost of capital punishment can be 10 times more than life in prison without parole.

On the other hand, proponents argue punishment must be consistent with the severity of the crime, and point to the fact the US Supreme Court has prohibited the death penalty for all crimes except murder. In addition, it has prohibited the mandatory imposition of the death penalty, thereby allowing the jury to decide\ whether to impose a lesser sentence after considering all of the mitigating facts and circumstances. For example, the minimum age at the time of the homicide currently is seventeen.

Smith v. Cain

In the case of SMITH v. CAIN, the U.S. Supreme Court on January 10, 2012 (Case #10-8145), reversed the Decision of the Louisiana State Trial Court, which erroneously convicted the defendant of first-degree murder based upon the testimony of a single witness. At trial, the only witness to link the defendant to the crime untruthfully claimed he was face to face with the defendant during the initial moments of an armed robbery, and identified Smith as the first gunman to come through the door when two other gunmen entered the residence in question. There were no other witnesses and no physical evidence to implicate the defendant in the crime.

During a state post-conviction proceeding, the defendant obtained police files containing exculpatory statements by the eyewitness that contradicted his trial testimony, which evidence was not disclosed by the prosecution in the Discovery they provided to the defendant’s counsel. The police investigator’s notes made at both the time of the murder as well as five days later contained statements by this sole witness that he could not supply a description of the perpetrators other than they were black males, as he could not see their faces and further that he would not know any of them even if he saw them. The notes were so damaging to the prosecution it was a clear travesty of justice for the prosecution to have failed to provide this evidence to the defense. The U.S. Supreme Court concluded the prosecution’s failure to disclose those statements violated the legal precedent established in the 1963 case of Bradyv. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83, which held due process bars a State from withholding evidence that is favorable to the defense and mate­rial to the defendant’s guilt or punishment.

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