California Death Penalty Debate Back on the Table

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has announced it will seek the death penalty against a mother (Pearl Fernandez) and her boyfriend (Isauro Aguirre), who have been accused of the torturing and death of the woman’s 8-year-old son.  This case stems from Gabriel Fernandez’s death in May 2013, where Fernandez and Aguirre were indicted by a grand jury on a charge of murder and a special circumstance of torture.

Grand jury testimony revealed that Pearl Fernandez had called 911 after she and Aguirre allegedly beat Gabriel for not picking up his toys. After the beating, the boy went silent and stopped responding.  Paramedics discovered that he had a cracked skull, three broken ribs and BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin.

The Recent U.S. Supreme Court Ruling’s Effect on California Death Row Practices

The CA prosecutor’s announcement coincidentally coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that upheld as constitutional the use of the drug midazolam for lethal injection in the state of Oklahoma.  See Glossip v. Gross (June 29, 2015).  Specifically, the Supreme Court has rejected inmates’ argument that using such a drug violates one’s right to a humane execution.  This ruling has shifted the spotlight the capital punishment debate back to California’s dysfunctional death row.  California has the largest death row backlog in the nation; 757 prisoners were awaiting their deaths (most convicted of murder) when executions were suspended in the state in 2006.

In 2006, District Judge Jeremy Fogel halted California executions after determining that the delays in the system were unconstitutional.  Prisoners used to be executed with a 3-drug cocktail, but lawsuits arose over the excessive pain that cocktail caused.  Since then, the state of California has failed to adopt new drug regulations, so families and victims of death row inmates sued the state last November.  Under that lawsuit’s settlement with families of murder victims, California prison officials agreed to propose a new single-drug execution method within 120 days of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Oklahoma legal challenge.  With the ruling in hand, that deadline is now Oct. 27.  The state has not executed an inmate in nearly a decade.

Now, the state of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must find a new drug to use, reactivate the system, and address the financial costs of such an expensive system.  California’s death row has cost $4 billion since its inception, with $100 million per year being paid for by taxpayers.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with first degree or second degree murder or homicide in San Diego County or anywhere in Southern California, it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.  Our attorneys are aggressive when it comes to protecting your rights and will advise you of potential defenses.  It might also be possible to negotiate a favorable plea bargain depending on the facts of the case, and we will do our best to reduce your charges.  Contact the law offices of attorney David Boertje today for a free consultation.