Judge Slams California Death Penalty

A federal judge in California called the state’s death penalty system “unconstitutional” in an order issued Wednesday, excoriating the system as “arbitrary” and “completely dysfunctional.”

In the sternly worded order, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney said the state’s system is so riddled with delays that the death penalty has been stripped “of any deterrent or retributive effect it might once have had.”

Carney’s order was related to the case of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to death in 1995 for raping and killing Julia Miller in 1992. The judge vacated Jones’s death sentence in the order, writing that letting California’s system threaten Jones with death nearly two decades after his sentencing “violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”

California has the largest number of inmates on death row, but it does not carry out nearly as many executions as the states that have fewer people there. The state had 742 people on its death row at the beginning of 2014, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, significantly more than Florida (410 inmates), Texas (278) and Missouri (48). But California has not executed anyone this year — the state hasn’t put an inmate to death since 2006 — while Florida and Texas have each put seven inmates to death and Missouri has carried out five executions.

While inmates often work to delay executions through the appeals process, the delays in California’s system are inherent to that state’s actions, Carney wrote.

Voters in California rejected an attempt to eliminate the state’s death penalty in 2012.

Missouri Executes Man For Triple Slaying

Bonne Terre, Mo. (ap) — A former methamphetamine dealer has been executed for killing three people in rural northern Missouri.

Fifty-four-year-old John Middleton was put to death Wednesday in the sixth execution in Missouri this year. Only Florida and Texas, with seven each, have performed more.

Middleton was convicted of killing Randy “Happy” Hamilton, Stacey Hodge and Alfred Pinegar in 1995. Authorities say he killed the three out of fear that they would report his drug activity to police.

His girlfriend is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in all three cases.

Middleton’s attorneys claimed he was innocent, citing a new witness who came forward in February saying that rival meth dealers, not Middleton, were responsible for the killings. They also claimed he was mentally ill.