ACLU Death Penalty

Following Passage of Prop. 66 and Efforts to Resume Capital Punishment in CA, ACLU Files Suit to Stall Executions

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

The ACLU of Northern California and the law firm Covington & Burling filed a lawsuit Tuesday that aims to block the state from resuming executions. The complaint argues the constitutionality of CA Penal Code §3604, which gives full discretion to bureaucrats at the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation rather than elected officials to “decide and resolve the key, fundamental policy questions implicated by the death penalty.”

“This law gives unelected bureaucrats too much power and it shields legislators from accountability on the death penalty process,” said Linda Lye, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU-NC Foundation. “This case is about one fundamental issue: accountability.”

There are 728 men and 21 women currently on death row in the state.

On November 8, voters narrowly passed Proposition 66, which will speed up the death penalty appeals process. Voters rejected a competing bill to abolish the death penalty. Former CA Attorney General John Van de Kamp and former El Dorado County supervisor Ron Briggs (whose father sponsored the current death penalty law back in 1978) filed a lawsuit last Wednesday, seeking a stay on Prop.66 from the state Supreme Court.

The ACLU suit calls into question the CDCR’s “unbridled discretion to develop protocols” regarding the use of lethal injection drugs or lethal gas, and the “pain, speed, reliability, and secrecy” of the process.

“The people of California, through their elected leaders, must have a say in and take responsibility for how this irreversible punishment is carried out,” said Mitch Kamin, a partner with Covington & Burling. “Whether or not you agree with the death penalty, there is no doubt that it is irreversible. It cannot be exempt from careful scrutiny in an open forum — the Legislature.”


  • California, its time to get on with it. All the folks on death row “earned” their place in San Q. I for one believe death penalty cases are carefully reviewed by the County’s District Attorney before the decision is made to file Special Circumstances allegations. And from there, it’s a matter of delivering justice and punishment, period. So as many prisoners have said while on the table, strapped down and IV plugged in, their last words have been, “Let’s get on with it.”

  • The “people have spoken” however the ACLU does not like the words that came from their mouths. The ACLU started out protecting the rights and civil liberties of the hard working, decent citizens who were being abused and mistreated by corrupt governments and corporations. How have they degenerated into a self serving, anti-government, anarchist leaning, criminal defense organization? The very citizens who they once defended are now their adversary it would seem. I know it’s cliche, but what about the rights of the victims and their families? Alas,I guess this is what you do when you have fought all the good fights, have no real causes that need tending to and are struggling to keep your organization, bank rolled and relevant in the 21st century. And people wonder why folks have so little faith in elected officials and the entire voting process.

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