Longtime Death-Row Inmate Denied Certiorari

     WASHINGTON (CN) — Justice Stephen Breyer complained Monday after the Supreme Court refused to hear a case where a man has been sitting on death row for 32 years.
     The prisoner behind the appeal, Richard Boyer, was tried three times, and his latest petition for certiorari comes exactly a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his direct appeal.
     “These delays are the result of a system that the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, an arm of the state of California, has labeled ‘dysfunctional,'” Breyer wrote today.
     He said Boyer belongs to a vast and growing number of prisoners in California who remained incarcerated on death row under a threat of execution for ever longer periods of time.
     “Eight years ago, the commission wrote that more than 10 percent of the capital sentences issued in California since 1978 had been reversed,” Breyer wrote. “It noted that many prisoners had died of natural causes before their sentences were carried out, and more California death row inmates had committed suicide than had been executed by the state. Indeed, only a small, apparently random set of death row inmates had been executed.”
     The commission also found that California’s death penalty system cost “more than 10 times what the commission estimated the cost would be for a system that substituted the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” according to the dissent.
     Breyer said the court should have taken up Boyer’s case because “California’s costly ‘administration of the death penalty’ likely embodies ‘three fundamental defects’ about which I have previously written.”
     The defects are “(1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose.”

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