Famous Cases

Manuel Babbitt to be a Vietnam battle Veteran who was executed in 1999 for murdering one elderly Sacramento woman. Babbitt offered two combat tourism in Vietnam and, while on fatality row, obtained the violet Heart for wounds that received during the battle of Khe Sanh. ~ the war, Babbitt was diagnosed through a post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorder and also paranoid schizophrenia. The soon came to be homeless. In 1980, he damaged into the residence of 78-year-old Leah Schendel, assaulted her and also stole part food and also some of she belongings. Schendel died of a love attack. That laid a mattress over her and also toe tagged her. Babbitt said that the was having a Vietnam battle flashback. Throughout the sentencing phase of the trial, James Schenk, Babbitt’s defense lawyer, did no introduce any evidence of Babbitt’s mental disease to the jury, prompting the to later say the he “failed completely” throughout this an essential phase the the trial. Prior to his execution, Babbitt refuse his critical meal and also asked because that the allotted money to it is in donated come a homeless Vietnam Veteran. Jail officials refuse his request. (E. Nieves, “Vietnam Veteran Executed for 1980 Murder.” The brand-new York Times, might 5, 1999.)

In the early 1970s, Stanley Williams co-founded the Crips, a violent street gang from Los Angeles. Williams was sentenced to fatality in 1981 because that the murders of four world that take it place during a robbery main actor in 1979. While that admitted that he had committed plenty of brutal plot while that was involved in the Crips, Williams always maintained his innocence through regards to the murders because that which he to be sentenced come death. In 1996, Williams co-authored “Gangs and also Wanting come Belong,” the an initial in a series of anti-gang children books. He later went on to create “Life in Prison” and “Blue Rage, black Redemption”. For his anti-gang youth outreach, Williams to be nominated for the Nobel peace Prize a total of six times. Plenty of notable leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Rigoberta Menchu, inquiry the branch to preventive William’s life. But then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refuse to give clemency and also Williams to be executed by lethal injection at san Quentin State jail on December 13, 2005. (“Timeline: Tookie’s path to death Row.” NPR News, December 13, 2005.)

Thomas Thompson was executed in 1998 for the rape and also murder the Ginger Fleischli despite considerable evidence that he was innocent and that someone else had committed the murder. In 1981, Thompson and also Fleischli invested a night drinking with each other in lengthy Beach. Thompson claimed that he and also Fleischli had consensual sex prior to going come sleep and also that she had disappeared by the time he awoke the following morning. As soon as Fleischli’s body to be discovered, a footprint close to her grave was connected to Thompson’s roommate and also Fleischli’s ex-boyfriend: David Leitch. Leitch had a background of violence and had intimidated Fleischli just two weeks before her disappearance. Regardless of this evidence and also cloth fibers from Fleischli’s clothing that were discovered in the stems of Leitch’s car, Leitch and Thompson were both arrested and also charged through the murder. They to be tried separately, Thompson first. The prosecution conduct on a theory that Thompson had actually raped and also then killed Fleischli come cover up the rape, and that Leitch’s authorized was minimal to helping dispose of the body. (A rape-murder unique circumstance allegation rendered Thompson eligible because that the death penalty). The prosecutor relied heavily on two jailhouse informants, among whom to be Edward Fink, that testified that Thompson claimed he raped the victim and then killed her to stop her from report the rape. Leitch to be tried by the same prosecutor. The prosecution’s concept at Leitch’s attempt was the Leitch to be a violent drug abuser who had the sole motive to commit the murder. Leitch was found guilty of 2nd-degree murder and also sentenced come 15 years to life. Thompson’s situation was overturned double on appeals, with a conservative us District referee saying that the instance left him v an “unsettling feeling.” after this decision to be reversed, the nine Circuit Court of Appeals again i rejected the fatality sentence, stating that there to be doubt end Thompson’s guilt. Eventually, the us Supreme Court i turned down this decision ~ above a technicality, and Thompson was executed. (E. Bailey, E. Schrader, and T. Hua, “Killer put to death by Injection at san Quentin.” The Los Angeles Times, July 14, 1998.)

Notable Exonerations

In early 1941, Fred Rogers’s mother committed self-destruction by inhaling chloroform. Nine months later his grieving father died of acting inhalation ~ deliberately setup his home on fire. Police, suspiciously of the 2 deaths, arrested Fred Rogers for murder. During the interrogation, the interviewers told Rogers the they had sufficient evidence come send him to the gas chamber, however he would spare his life if the confessed. Rogers quickly confessed to the two murders. In ~ trial however, Rogers recanted his confession, but was eventually discovered guilty and also sentenced come death. When the California can be fried Court reviewed the case in 1943, they detailed the lack of comprehensive evidence versus Rogers and also the questionable police techniques used to elicit the confession, and also the conviction to be overturned. As soon as Rogers to be retried, the court dismissed every charges and also released him.

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Paul Imbler to be sentenced to fatality for the 1961 murder of a keep owner in Los Angeles. The owner’s wife – who had witnessed the murder – choose Imbler’s face out that a arsenal of police photographs. Additionally, a witness named Alfred Costello asserted to have actually chased Imbler ~ the attack, recovering his coat and also firearm in an alley. ~ Imbler was sentenced come death, live independence investigators uncovered that Costello, an ex-con and also mental patient that was also running one illegal bookmaking operation out of the victim’s store, had created unreliable testimony in court. Furthermore, the firearm found in the alley was never ever conclusively attached to Imbler. V this new information, the California courts admitted that he had actually been judge in error, and also released that ten years after he was arrested.

Vicente Benavides Figueroa, mistakenly convicted and sentenced to fatality in 1993 top top charges the he had raped, anally sodomized, and also murdered his girlfriend’s 21-month-old daughter, was exonerated on April 19, 2018. A attempt court in Kern County, California formally dismissed every charges against Benavides, a mexican national, two days after ~ Kern district Attorney Lisa environment-friendly said her office would certainly not it is in seeking a retrial. The California can be fried Court had granted the former farmworker a new trial in in march 2018, calling his convictions because that sexually assaulting and also murdering Consuelo Verdugo a product the “extensive,” “pervasive,” “impactful,” and “false” forensic testimony. The girl, the court said, had actually never been sexually assaulted and also may actually have passed away from being hit through a car.

Notable Commutations and also Clemencies

William Lindley was sentenced to death for the 1943 murder of a 13 year-old girl. The redheaded Lindley to be an illiterate and also mentally okay itinerant farmer from central California. Throughout the investigation, police relied ~ above testimony native a shepherd who witnessed the attack, claiming the the attacker was a redhead. Furthermore, the little girl herself described the attacker together a redhead before she died. Finally, a jailhouse informant claimed that Lindley confessed come the murder. After ~ the jury sentenced Lindley come death, Al Matthews, an attorney from Los Angeles, started independently investigating the case. Matthews discovered that the shepherd who witnessed the attack was colorblind, and thus can not to know whether or no the attacker was without doubt a redhead. Matthews likewise discovered that one more redheaded farmer had remained in the vicinity during the crime, and had been provided to have actually mysterious scratches top top his challenge after the attack. Further, witnesses came forward claiming the this farmer had actually repeatedly confessed come the murder. Also with this brand-new information, the California supreme Court did not instantly overturn the sentence. In January 1946, Lindley came within hours of gift executed before a short-lived reprieve came. In July of the year, he come within 2 days of being executed before another reprieve came. In October, he winner a 3rd reprieve a week prior to his booked execution. It was not till 1947 that branch Earl Warren commuted Lindley’s sentence come life imprisonment.

In 1967, governor Ronald Reagan commuted Calvin Thomas’s sentence from death to life imprisonment after the was discovered that Thomas endured from organic brain damage. Thomas had been judge of murdering a three year-old boy. Thomas’s mind damage was found after the trial. To date, this is the critical time a California governor has commuted a death sentence. (H. Chiang, “No Clemency if background is a Precedent.” mountain Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 1999.)

Milestones in Abolition and also Reinstatement

1872 – funding punishment authorized in state Penal Code

1972 – California supreme Court declares fatality penalty unconstitutional. 107 condemned prisoners resentenced. California voters pass Proposition 17, one initiative the amends the California constitution to carry out that the fatality penalty is not cruel or unexplained punishment.

1977 – State legislative overrides governor Jerry Brown’s veto and also reinstates the death penalty, allowing for capital punishment in an initial degree murders with any of 12 special circumstances.

1978 – California voter pass the Briggs initiative which create California’s present death punish statute, adding 16 more special circumstances, for a full of 28 death-eligible crimes.

1990 – voter pass two additional initiatives, including 5 much more special circumstances, because that a total of 33 death-eligible crimes.

1996 – voters pass two campaigns that add 3 additional special circumstances, pass the total to 36 death-eligible crimes.

2000 – 2 voter initiatives include another 3 special circumstances to California’s death penalty law, for a total of 39 death-eligible crimes.

2012 – Proposition 34 to be on the ballot, which would have repealed the fatality penalty and also replaced it with life in prison. The proposition failed, yet received 48% support from voters.

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2016 – Proposition 62 was on the ballot, i beg your pardon would have replaced the fatality penalty v a strictly life sentence in prison. In response, death-penalty proponents presented a counter-proposition, Proposition 66, which sought to retain the death penalty and expedite state capital appeals by transforming the means in i m sorry appeals are processed. Proposition 62 failed, however received 46% support from voters. Proposition 66 passed with 51% support from voters.

2017 – The can be fried Court of California upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 66 but severely minimal the scope of its main point provisions. In Briggs v. Brown, the court sustained parts of the measure the shifted which court will certainly hear capital cases, increased the swimming pool of death-penalty appeal lawyers by request lawyers that accept various other appellate appointments to likewise take capital cases, got rid of public testimonial of execution methods, and limited both the worries that can be elevated in funding habeas appeals and also the time courts have to decide them. However, the bulk ruled the the measure’s flagship provision—a five-year attributed on appeals by condemned prisoners—was “directive, rather than mandatory”; that “courts need to make individualized decisions based upon the scenarios of every case”; and also that “prisoners might seek to difficulty in the context of their individual cases.”

Other amazing Facts

California’s death Row is the biggest in the country with an ext than 700 condemned prisoners. During the 2016 project on Propositions 62 and 66, the yes on 62 (death punish abolition) project made the dramatic assertion that “California is house to the largest fatality row populace in the western Hemisphere.” PolitiFact California fact-checked the claim and rated it as accurate. C. Nichols, “Truth it is in told: California has actually ‘largest fatality row in west Hemisphere’,” KPCC, Capitol publicly Radio, respectable 12, 2016.