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The Death Penalty in California

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a report on March 29, 2010 regarding the use of capital punishment in California. The report “Death Decline in 2009: Los Angeles Holds California Back as Nation Shifts to Permanent Imprisonment” found a number of startling facts regarding the death penalty in the nation’s most populous state, including the striking number of new death sentences, the benefits financially of life imprisonment and the changing face of death row to include a proportionally unequal number of Latinos.

First, the ACLU found that only a handful of counties in the state were responsible for sentencing 29 new people to death row in 2009. Compared with Texas, who issued 11 new death sentences in 2009, California is on track to becoming the new death penalty capital. The report also found that Los Angeles County was responsible for sentencing more people to death row than the entire state of Texas. L.A. County, which sentenced 13 individuals to death row, has superseded Texas’s own Harris County as the death penalty county of the world (Harris County, for the second year in a row, issued no new death sentences).
The report also touches on a number of important points regarding the cost of maintaining the death penalty in a state with over 700 current death row inmates, the inequalities with the criminal justice system regarding proper legal representation, and the unsettling number of new death sentences in the Latino population, causing concern over the fairness of the death penalty’s application.
The full report, with graphs, is available here
The ACLU’s response to their findings is available here