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California Supreme Court withdraws proposal to ease death penalty backlog

[JURIST] Chief Justice Ronald George [official profile] of the California Supreme Court told the state's Judiciary Council on Friday that the Supreme Court is withdrawing a proposed constitutional amendment [PDF text] aimed at expediting death penalty appeals by allowing the Supreme Court to transfer death penalty appeals to the intermediate appellate courts, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. George had proposed the amendment [JURIST report] in November, but said Friday that the amendment might overburden the limited financial resources of the Courts of Appeals, as well as the attorney general's office and the public defender's office. The Supreme Court currently has the power to transfer any matter to the Courts of Appeal for review, except appeals from judgments imposing the death penalty. The amendment drew opposition from the California Public Defenders Association and the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice over concerns that the arrangement would lead to inconsistent rulings.

The growing number of defendants sentenced to death in California has created a significant backlog problem in recent years, making California's the nation's largest death row at 667 prisoners. To clear it, five prisoners would have to be executed per month for the next 11 years. Since capital punishment was reinstated in California in 1978, only 13 prisoners have been executed. The Los Angeles Times has more.

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