Two Big and Unanimous Wins for the Death Penalty

Congratulations to Mike and Kent for their work that paid off today in a unanimous California Supreme Court ruling rejecting an audacious, broad-brush challenge to the state’s death penalty.

The CJLF press release starts:

In a unanimous decision announced today, the California Supreme Court rejected a double-murderer’s claim that the state has misapplied its death penalty law since it was enacted 42 years ago, invalidating every death sentence handed down since 1978.

Specifically, Donte Lamont McDaniel argued that the law required sentencing juries to find each aggravating factor of a murder true beyond a reasonable doubt and find that a death sentence is appropriate beyond a reasonable doubt, but that no court has ever complied with those requirements.


The other quite important death penalty decision is the Fourth Circuit’s unanimous affirmance of the death penalty imposed on Dylann Roof, the racist criminal who gunned down nine black worshipers in a Charleston church.  The court said, inter alia:

Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible-study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them. He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder. He used the internet to plan his attack and, using his crimes as a catalyst, intended to foment racial division and strife across America.  He wanted the widest possible publicity for his atrocities, and, to that end, he purposefully left one person alive in the church “to tell the story.” (J.A. at 5017.)  When apprehended, he frankly confessed, with barely a hint of remorse.

No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose.  We have reached that conclusion not as a product of emotion but through a thorough analytical process, which we have endeavored to detail here. In this, we have followed the example of the trial judge, who managed this difficult case with skill and compassion for all concerned, including Roof himself.

The full opinion is here.