Krista MacKay


Although the claim that death row inmates’ pre-execution delays violate the Eighth Amendment has been historically unsuccessful, the decision in Jones v. Chappell paved a new path to its success. In Jones, despite the Ninth Circuit’s disagreement, a federal judge in California became the first to rule that systematic delay has rendered California’s death penalty system unconstitutional. The court in Jones defined systematic delay as delay inherent to the state’s dysfunctional administration of the death penalty. Due to increasing pre-execution delays nationwide and recent initiatives to examine and repeal state death penalty systems, other state courts may soon come to recognize and declare systematic delay unconstitutional using reasoning similar to the court in Jones. This would likely require the Supreme Court to finally address the constitutionality of pre-execution delay. In the meantime, preexecution delay is problematic for inmates on death row—even if not yet declared unconstitutional—and a solution is necessary to uphold the purposes of the death penalty. One state attempting to address this problem is Florida. Florida recently passed the “Timely Justice Act,” the first legislation of its kind, in an effort to reduce postconviction delays for death row inmates. Although Florida’s Act has been the subject of heated controversy, California has since passed a similar proposition titled the “Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016.” This Note examines the limited existing legislation seeking to speed up the postconviction review process and ultimately proposes more effective recommendations for legislation to resolve systematic delay.

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