Long delays in executing death row inmates violate Eighth Amendment: Justice Breyer

Long delays in executing death row inmates violate Eighth Amendment: Justice Breyer

Justice Stephen G. Breyer renewed his attack on capital punishment on Monday when he argued that his colleagues’ decision to turn down a challenge to California’s death penalty system was wrong.

Breyer called the state’s death penalty system arbitrary, unreliable and plagued by “unconscionably” long delays.

Breyer’s comments came in connection with Richard D. Boyer, who cited the stress he suffered due to the long wait on death row after he was being sentenced in 1984 for murdering an elderly couple in Fullerton. Referring to the case, Breyer said the long delays in Boyer’s case were the result of a dysfunctional system.

He noted that more death row inmates in the state have committed suicides than executed by the state, and that only a small number of death row inmates had been executed by the state.

Criticizing the death penalty, Breyer said, “More California death row inmates had committed suicide than had been executed by the state. Indeed, only a small, apparently random set of death row inmates had been executed. A vast and growing majority remained incarcerated, like Boyer…”

Justice Breyer emphasized that long delays between pronouncement death sentence and execution might be violating the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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