Fourteen Years Later: The Capital Punishment System in California

60 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2016 Last revised: 7 Sep 2016

Date Written: August 26, 2016


Fourteen years ago, the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment issued a Report recommending 85 reforms in the criminal justice system in that state to help minimize the possibility that an innocent person would be executed. The following year, this author conducted an empirical study, later published in the Santa Clara Law Review, to determine if California’s system was in need of the same reforms. The study concluded that over ninety-two percent of the same reforms were needed in California. In addition, the study showed that the California system had additional weaknesses beyond those of Illinois that also could lead to the execution of the innocent. This article is an effort, fourteen years later, to determine what has transpired in California during the last fourteen years. It will survey of the major scholarly and judicial work that has been published in the last fourteen years on the death penalty nationally and specifically with regard to California as well as on the progress, if any, to meet the unmet recommendations for the Illinois Commission.

This article concludes that there has been much additional criticism of the failures of the criminal justice and death penalty systems in the country and specifically in California. Nevertheless, the empirical study demonstrates that no additional Recommendations of the Illinois Commission have been met in California in the last fourteen years. Illinois, itself, enacted significant reforms to meet at least some of the Illinois recommendations. Nevertheless, Illinois repealed its death penalty. California, despite no reforms, has not, as yet. The voters will have that option on November 8, 2016. By voting “Yes” on Proposition 62, the California death penalty would be repealed.

Keywords: death penalty, capital punishment, Proposition 62, Proposition 66, Illinois Commission, repeal, abolition

Suggested Citation

Sanger, Robert M., Fourteen Years Later: The Capital Punishment System in California (August 26, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Robert M. Sanger (Contact Author)

Santa Barbara College of Law ( email )

20 East Victoria Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
United States
8059624887 (Phone)


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