California And The Death Penalty


California is one of 30 states in which the death penalty is legal. In the last election, California voters voted to keep capital punishment legal (Proposition 62) and, beyond that, voted to speed up the process (Proposition 66). Proposition 62 would have replaced the punishment for those convictions under which a person could be sentenced to death to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The California voters soundly defeated this proposition with 53% of the voters voting nay. A corollary proposition, Prop 66, approved by 51% of the voters, shortens the time a death row inmate can take to appeal his or her sentence to a maximum of five years. Opponents of Proposition 66 have filed a lawsuit in the Californian Supreme Court challenging the legality of Proposition 66. That lawsuit is pending.

So what is the fate of an estimated 750 death row inmates presently sitting out their time in California prisons? The last time a person was executed in California was in January 2006, when 76 year old Clarence Ray Allen was put to death by lethal injection. A month after Mr. Allen’s execution, the U.S. District Court blocked a scheduled execution after a lawsuit was filed challenging the lethal injection protocol as cruel and unusual punishment. Since this challenge, there has been an almost eleven year stay on lethal injections in California. That stay was challenged in 2010, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the stay continued to apply. Even though no one has been executed in this state since 2006, prosecutors continue to ask for the death penalty and new death row inmates are added to the prison population every year.

If the courts allow the provisions of Proposition 66 to become law, executions may again resume in California. Not only does Proposition 66 limit the time for appeal of a death sentence but it also will allow prison officials to move ahead with a new lethal injection protocol that remedies the reasons for the 2006 stay on lethal injections.

As most people know, the death penalty may be sentenced in California when a person is convicted of first-degree murder (i.e., planned and intended) if the murder is committed under certain “special circumstances. But did you know that capital punishment is also allowed for a person convicted of treason against the state of California, for intentionally interfering with United States war preparations thereby causing someone’s death, for causing a train wreck that results in the death of another person, or for committing an act of perjury in order to cause an innocent person’s execution?

It goes without saying that being charged with a capital crime is serious business and demands the skill and experience of a seasoned defense attorney. Attorney William Weinberg has been a criminal defense attorney for almost 25 years, with experience in capital crime cases. He is available to consult with you regarding charges that carry a possible death sentence or any other criminal charges. You may reach him at his Irvine office at (949) 474-8008 or by email him at