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New Sentence in Old Case

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Victoria Kim reports in the LA Times,

Lloyd Earl Jackson once appeared to be first in line for the gas chamber after California reinstituted capital punishment in 1977.

The 19-year-old had beaten two elderly Long Beach women to death and raped one with a wine bottle. The brutality of his crime and his lack of remorse made Jackson the "model candidate for death in the gas house," one columnist wrote after his death sentence was upheld by the state's highest court.

But Jackson's short walk from San Quentin's death row to the execution room has taken a long detour through numerous courts and appeals over the last three decades. On Thursday, a Long Beach jury once again found that Jackson, now 52, should be put to death.

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After three decades of defendant-generated appeals, the current defense attorney had the temerity to argue that his client should be spared the death penalty because of the amount of time he "languished" on death row.

Exhibit A in the "costs of capital punishment".

There ought to be a rule--if a death penalty is imposed twice, no federal review of the second sentence, absent innocence. Habeas is for defendants who have been grievously wronged by society--getting two bites at the apple in a death case ipso facto means that the defendant has not been grievously wronged.

That the abolitionist movement continues to whine about lack of due process in the face of a 33 year (and counting) delay is beyond incomprehensible. But whine they will.

I ordinarily oppose artificial deadlines, but enough is enough. What California needs is a statute providing that, where factual guilt has been established beyond a rational doubt, and the defendant has been afforded one complete direct appeal and one opportunity for colatteral review, via habeas corpus or otherwise, all California courts are automatically divested of jurisdiction and the execution is to be carried out forthwith.

That is an extreme remedy, I admit. But the situation has become extreme.

Where the stakes are as high as they are with capital punishment, we need to be as careful as human beings can get. But being careful does not mean being paralyzed. Still less does it mean being a laughingstock.

Time to get moving.

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