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California high court urges constitutional amendment to fix capital appeals backlog

[JURIST] California Supreme Court [official website] Chief Justice Ronald George [official profile] proposed a constitutional amendment [PDF text] Monday designed to expedite death penalty appeals by shifting the locus of review from the state supreme court to state appeals courts. The California Supreme Court currently has the authority to transfer any matter to the appellate courts, excepting appeals from judgments imposing the death penalty. George said that he has had "positive discussions" about the proposed amendment with the presiding justices of the appellate courts; they will meet for further discussions in early December. The California Supreme Court justices hope the proposed amendment will be on the November 2008 general election ballot.

The growing number of defendants sentenced to death in California has created a significant backlog problem in recent years, making California's the nation's largest death row at 667 prisoners. To clear it, five prisoners would have to be executed per month for the next 11 years. Since capital punishment was reinstated in California in 1978, only 13 prisoners have been executed. The Los Angeles Times has more.

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