Recent Reports


Reports are in date order from most recent to least.


"Executing the Will of the Voters?: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature's Multi-Billion Dollar Death Penalty Debacle" by Judge Arthur L. Alarcon & Paula M. Mitchell, published in Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Volume 44:S41 Special Issue (2011)
This Article uncovers the true costs of administering the death penalty in California by tracing how much taxpayers are spending for death penalty trials versus non-death penalty trials and for costs incurred due to the delay from the initial sentence of death to the execution. In addition, the Article examines how the voter initiative process has misled voters into agreeing to the wasteful expenditure of billions of dollars on a system that has been ineffective in carrying out punishment against those who commit the worst of crimes. Finally, this Article analyzes corrective measures that the Legislature could take to reduce the death row backlog, and proposes several voter initiatives that California voters may wish to consider if the Legislature continues to ignore the problem. It is the authors’ view that unless California voters want to tolerate the continued waste of billions of tax dollars on the state’s now-defunct death penalty system, they must either demand meaningful reforms to ensure that the system is administered in a fair and effective manner or, if they do not want to be taxed to fund the needed reforms, they must recognize that the only alternative is to abolish the death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

"California's Death Penalty is Dead: Anatomy of a Failure", ACLU, July 2011
California’s death penalty is dead. Prosecutors, legislators and taxpayers are turning to permanent imprisonment with no chance of parole as evidence grows that the system is costly, risky, and dangerous to public safety. New polls also indicate that voters favor replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole, with a requirement for work and restitution paid to the Victims’ Compensation Fund.

"Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in California 1997–2009", by Kathleen M. Ridolfi and Maurice Possley Northern California Innocence Project, Santa Clara University School of Law, October 2010
This study of prosecutorial misconduct was undertaken to further understand the scope of the problem, and is a long overdue step in trying to address the issue. In 2004, the California Senate established the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice (CCFAJ) to examine the causes of wrongful conviction and recommend reforms to improve the administration of justice. It was my honor to serve on that Commission and to work under the extraordinary leadership of its chairman, former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp and its executive director, Santa Clara University School of Law professor and former dean Gerald Uelmen.

"Death Penalty Sentencing In Decline Across U.S." by the ACLU of Northern California, March 30, 2010
As the United States moves away from death sentences to permanent imprisonment, California-particularly Los Angeles County-lags behind, according to a new report on the death penalty by the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC). In 2009, the number of new death sentences nationwide reached the lowest level since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. The Golden State, however, sent more people to death row last year than in the seven preceding years. At the close of 2009, California's death row was the largest and most costly in the United States. The ACLU report also found a dramatic increase in the number of Latinos sentenced to death in California. The percentage of Latinos on death row has historically been well below the percentage of Latinos in the California population.

"Death Sentences and Executions 2009" by Amnesty International, March 2010
The world witnessed further progress towards ending judicial killings by states in 2009. For the first time since Amnesty International started keeping records, not a single execution was carried out in all of Europe, while important steps were taken to turn the United Nations General Assembly resolutions calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions into reality. Two more countries, Burundi and Togo, abolished the death penalty in 2009, bringing the number of countries that have removed capital punishment entirely from their laws to 95. The world is in reach of 100 countries declaring their refusal to put people to death. In the Americas, the United States of America (USA) was the only nation to carry out executions in 2009.

"DO EXECUTIONS LOWER HOMICIDE RATES?: THE VIEWS OF LEADING CRIMINOLOGISTS" By Michael L. Radelet and Traci L. LaCock, July 2009
The question of whether the death penalty is a more effective deterrent than long-term imprisonment has been debated for decades or longer by scholars, policy makers, and the general public. In this Article we report results from a survey of the world’s leading criminologists that asked their expert opinions on whether the empirical research supports the contention that the death penalty is a superior deterrent. The findings demonstrate an overwhelming consensus among these criminologists that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question strongly supports the conclusion that the death penalty does not add deterrent effects to those already achieved by long imprisonment.

"Racial Disparities in Capital Punishment: Blind Justice Requires a Blindfold" By Scott Phillips - October 2008
Justice is supposed to be blind – meted out according to the legal characteristics of a case rather than the social characteristics of the defendant and victim. But decades of research on race and capital punishment demonstrate that blind justice is a mirage. In this Issue Brief, I describe research I conducted on race and capital punishment in Harris County, Texas. Though the entire state of Texas has earned a reputation for execution, Harris County – home to Houston and surrounding areas – is the capital of capital punishment. Harris County has executed 104 offenders in the modern era (defined as the time from the Supreme Court’s reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976 to the present). That number means Harris County has executed more offenders than all the other major urban counties in Texas, combined. In fact, if Harris County were a state it would rank second in executions in the nation after Texas. My findings suggest that the race of the defendant and victim are both pivotal in the capital of capital punishment: death was more likely to be imposed against black defendants than white defendants, and death was more likely to be imposed on behalf of white victims than black victims (no Hispanic-white disparities were observed). Importantly, the disparities originated in the District Attorney’s (DA) office, not the jury’s deliberation room.

"CALIFORNIA COMMISSION ON THE FAIR ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE: OFFICIAL RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE FAIR ADMINISTRATION OF THE DEATH PENALTY IN CALIFORNIA" - June 30, 2008
The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice was established in 2004 by California State Senate Resolution No. 44 to carry out the following charges: (1) To study and review the administration of criminal justice in California to determine the extent to which that process has failed in the past, resulting in wrongful executions or the wrongful conviction of innocent persons; (2) To examine ways of providing safeguards and making improvements in the way the criminal justice system functions; (3) To make any recommendations and proposals designed to further ensure that the application and administration of criminal justice in California is just, fair, and accurate. In carrying out these charges, the Commission has undertaken a thorough review and analysis of the administration of the death penalty in California. This is the first time since the California death penalty law was legislatively enacted in 1977 that any official body has undertaken a comprehensive review of its operation. The Commission funded a feasibility study by the Rand Corporation, and independent research by professors at California law schools, to examine particular aspects of death penalty administration in California.

"Death by Geography" - March 27, 2008
In Death by Geography, the ACLU of Northern California reveals that while the vast majority of California counties have largely abandoned execution in favor of simply sentencing people to die in prison, a small number of counties continue to send a large number of people to death row. The report shows how arbitrary and unnecessary the death penalty is, and how costly seeking execution is to the counties: 1)A resident of Alameda is eight times more likely to be sentenced to death than a resident of nearby Santa Clara; 2) Counties that sentence people to death do not experience lower homicide rates or higher rates of solving homicides, but resources devoted to pursuing executions detract from other important programs; and 3) The $22 million dollars wasted on 20 death sentences in Riverside County since 2000 could have paid the salaries of 49 experienced teachers or 46 new homicide investigators for that same period of time. Riverside County ranks 23 out of 24 counties on per pupil expenditures on education, and solved only 50 percent of homicides in 2005.

"The Hidden Death Tax" - March 27, 2008
In "The Hidden Death Tax", the ACLU of Northern California reveals for the first time some of the hidden costs of California’s death penalty, based on records of actual trial expenses and state budgets. The report reveals that: 1)California taxpayers pay at least $117 million each year post-trial seeking execution of the people currently on death row; 2)Executing all of the people currently on death row, or waiting for them to die there of other causes, will cost California an estimated $4 billion more than if they had been sentenced to die in prison of disease, injury, or old age; and 3) California death penalty trials have cost as much as $10.9 million. "The Hidden Death Tax" concludes that not enough is being done to track death penalty expenses. The report recommends tracking more of these costs to provide greater transparency and accountability for a system that costs California hundreds of millions.

"A Crisis of Confidence: Americans' Doubts About the Death Penalty" - June 9, 2007
"A Crisis of Confidence: Americans' Doubts About the Death Penalty," Death Penalty Information Center, 2007. Because of mistakes and a lack of efficacy, the death penalty is losing the confidence of the American public, according to a new poll by RT Strategies. Almost 40% of the U.S. population believe they would be excluded as jurors in capital cases and a strong majority (58%) believe it is time for a moratorium on the death penalty while the process undergoes a careful review. The poll was commissioned by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) (June 9, 2007).

"Innocent and Executed" - 2006
"Executed and Innocent: Four Chapters in the Life of America’s Death Penalty," a report by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, documents four cases of wrongful execution.

"Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited" - February 01, 2006
The Constitution Project’s Death Penalty Initiative released a report on February 1, 2006 entitled Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited. The Initiative's bipartisan panel brought together supporters and opponents of the death penalty from all political backgrounds to provide a list of specific and innovative tactics for improving the fairness and reliability of capital punishment systems in the United States. Updating the Initiative’s first publication on this topic issued in 2001, the report notes some improvements in recent years and identifies further steps that must still be taken in order to minimize mistakes and increase fairness and accuracy.

"Looking Deathworthy: Perceived Stereotypicality of Black Defendants Predicts Capital-Sentencing Outcomes" - 2006
"Looking Deathworthy: Perceived Stereotypicality of Black Defendants Predicts Capital-Sentencing Outcomes" - 2006 Jennifer L. Eberhardt (Department of Psychology, Stanford University), Paul G. Davies (Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles), Valerie J. Purdie-Vaughns(Department of Psychology, Yale University), and Sheri Lynn Johnson (Cornell Law School), Psychological Science , Volume 17 - Number 5, FINAL MATERIALS RECEIVED 11/9/05

“The Impact of Legally Inappropriate Factors on Death Sentencing for California Homicides, 1990-99” - 2005
“The Impact of Legally Inappropriate Factors on Death Sentencing for California Homicides, 1990-99” - 2005 Glenn L. Pierce & Michael L. Radelet, The Impact of Legally Inappropriate Factors on Death Sentencing for California Homicides, 1990-1999, 46 Santa Clara L. Rev. 1 (2005)[.pdf]

"Exonerations in the United States, 1989 through 2003" - 2005
"Exonerations in the United States, 1989 through 2003" - 2005 Gross, Samuel R., Jacoby, Kristen, Matheson, Daniel J., Montgomery, Nicholas and Patil, Sujata, "Exonerations in the United States, 1989 through 2003". Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 95, No. 2, 2005 [.pdf]

"The Forgotten Population: A Look at Death Row in the United States Through the Experiences of Women" - 2004
"The Forgotten Population: A Look at Death Row in the United States Through the Experiences of Women" - 2004 Published December 2004, Prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project, Women’s Rights Project and National Prison Project, with the National Criminal Justice Program of the American Friends Service Committee and the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women.

"Innocence Lost" - 2004
"Innocence Lost" - 2004 Martin, Nina, "Innocence Lost", San Francisco magazine, November 2004 [.pdf]

"A Comparison Between Governor Romney's Massachusetts Death Penalty Report and California’s Capital Punishment System" - 2004
"A Comparison Between Governor Romney's Massachusetts Death Penalty Report and California’s Capital Punishment System" - 2004 Sanger, Robert, "A Comparison Between Governor Romney's Massachusetts Death Penalty Report and California’s Capital Punishment System", Death Penalty Focus, June 2004

"The Report of the Foxes: Analysis of Prosecutors' Perspective on California's Death Penalty" - 2003
"The Report of the Foxes: Analysis of Prosecutors' Perspective on California's Death Penalty" - 2003 Death Penalty Focus, April 2003

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