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California's Death Penalty: The California Supreme Court's Carefulness Con

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[19] See Orange County's Crime Lab Accused of Doctoring DNA Analysis In Murder Cases, OC Weekly, Sep. 27, 2016. Senior Forensic Scientist Mary Hong gave completely inconsistent testimony in two cases.

[20] Besides gang warfare, maximum security California prisons are notorious for inhumane overcrowding, rape, and staged inmate fights. See: Prison Overcrowding State of Emergency Proclamation, Governor Schwartzenberger, Oct. 26, 2006; California's 'Cruel and Unusual' Prisons, reason.com, Feb. 2015; Staged fights, betting guards, gunfire and death for the gladiators: 'Cockfights' and shootings investigated by FBI, Independent, Aug. 21, 1996; San Francisco jail inmates allegedly forced into 'gladiator-style' fights: County public defender asks the US Department of Justice to investigate claims of 'sadistic' treatment including threats of violence if inmates did not comply, The Guardian, Mar. 27, 2015. California's brutal solitary confinement regime and arguably worse-than-death mental health segregation units have also required federal intervention. See Summary of Ashker v. Governor of California Settlement Terms, Center for Constitutional Rights, Sep. 1, 2015. (No. 4:09-cv-05796; N.D. Cal., 2012); Coleman v. Brown, (E.D.Cal 4-5-2013 and 4-11-2014) 938 F. Supp.2d 955, 970 and 28 F.Supp.3d 1068 (deliberate indifference to inmates' serious mental health care needs); and "Systemic Failures Persist" in California Prison Mental Health Care, Judge Rules, Solitary Watch. A federally-ordered death row mental health facility has just been completed in San Quentin. See also America's 10 Worst Prisons: LA County; Pelican Bay; and San Quentin (respectively ranked 5th, 6th, and dishonorable mention); Mother Jones, May 8, 2013. See also Appealing to Justice: Prisoner Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic, a 2014 book by Calavita and Jenness, which writes up a study of California prison grievances, reporting that in 2005-2006 only 2% of grievances were directly successful, and:

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What we find is a system fraught with impediments and dilemmas that delivers neither justice, nor efficiency, nor constitutional conditions of confinement.

[21] See Watchdog for errant CA judges has no bite, no bark, First Amendment Coalition, May 9, 2016:

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Arizona's overall discipline rate was four times higher than California's and its public discipline rate was five times higher. Texas investigated three times as many complaints, publicly disciplined three times as many judges, and removed six times as many judges. New York had more than 10 times as many complaints (358) as California (34) result in judges leaving the bench with complaints pending -- a likely indication that New York's judges know their watchdog has teeth, while California's watchdog may be asleep. The [California] Commission on Judicial Performance is as secretive about its operations as the CIA. In response to a public records request from First Amendment Coalition . . . the panel refused to disclose complaints or even the number of complaints filed by judge or by county.

California's watchdog for errant counsel (the California Bar Association) is similarly scandalized. See California's Top Ethics Prosecutor, Jayne Kim, Resigns Her Post, Findlaw, May 17, 2016:

That suit [by an allegedly wrongfully discharged prior prosecutor] alleges that Kim removed some 270 cases from her disciplinary group's backlog in order to give the illusion that her team was highly effective in prosecuting ethics violators. . . The [state] auditor intimated that, in Kim's zeal to shorten backlogs, her office would routinely skim over disciplinary cases and hand out slap-on-the-wrist punishments.

[22] See: Rate of False Conviction of Criminal Defendants Who Are Sentenced to Death, 111 Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences 7230 (2014) (for all death sentences from 1973-2004, estimated 4.1% innocent); Innocents Convicted: An Empirically Justified Factual Wrongful Conviction Rate, 97 J. Crim. L. & C. 761 (2007) (from indisputable DNA exonerations in death penalty cases for capital murder-rapes from 1982-1989, false conviction rate estimated from 3.3% - 5%).

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[23] The California Department of Corrections maintains a list of condemned inmates, with conviction dates and procedural status.

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Clifford Johnson is a semi-academic naturalized Brit. He first entered the U.S. as a rah-rah Harkness Fellow. For theater, language, and also as a questionable ex-Brit, Johnson adopts a Tom Paine II persona. His activist credentials comprise serial (more...)

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