The Habeas Corpus Resource Center (HCRC), located in San Francisco, represents indigent men and women under sentence of death in
California. The HCRC's mission is to provide timely, high-quality legal
representation for indigent petitioners in death penalty habeas corpus
proceedings before the Supreme Court of California and the federal courts.
The HCRC also recruits and trains attorneys to expand the pool of private
counsel qualified to accept appointments in death penalty habeas corpus
proceedings and serves as a resource to appointed counsel, thereby reducing
the number of unrepresented indigents on California's death row. Please
refer to Court Appointments in California State Capital Habeas Corpus Proceedings for complete information.
U.S. District Judge declares California death penalty system unconstitutional
On July 16, 2014, United States District Court Judge Cormac Carney issued an order in the case of Ernest Dewayne Jones, invalidating California’s death penalty process and vacating Mr. Jones’s death sentence. Citing the conclusions of the former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Ronald M. George and the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice that California's death penalty system is dysfunctional, Judge Carney determined that application of California’s death penalty system is arbitrary, serves no penological purpose, and violates the Constitution.
Mr. Jones was sentenced in 1995, and like more than 40 percent of the 748 inmates on California’s Death Row, has been there longer than 19 years.
Michael Laurence, Executive Director of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center and Mr. Jones’s lead counsel, stated: “We’re gratified that six years after the Commission’s report, with no action on its recommendations to improve California’s death penalty system, the federal judiciary has recognized what all persons who have studied the California system have determined: It is arbitrary and capricious, and violates the United States Constitution. There is no rational explanation, much less any societal justification, for which people are ultimately executed. The execution of Mr. Jones, and the others like him whose meritorious legal claims have gone unheard for decades, serves no valid state interest.”
The order, entitled “Order Declaring California’s Death Penalty System Unconstitutional and Vacating Petitioner’s Death Sentence,” is in Jones vs. Chappell, Case No. CV 09-02158-CJC.