Death row

Why is there such a long wait for being on death row? I don’t see why the state of California can’t execute 600 prisoners a day. When your appeals run out, why don’t they just execute you?

They don’t. Cons can continue to file appeals ad infinitum, repetitious ones even. As a result, the process has been hamstrung, as far as alacrity is concerned.

So why has anyone ever been put to death?

Because the courts will eventually deny any further appeals barring new evidence. I asked this question once. The whole answer is long but it really boils down to the fact that the judicial system is generally generous with appeals as long as someone pursues them long enough and that is especially so with people on death row. There are often many groups that will help death row inmates get appeals. Winding through the process on each one can take years and the lawyers often find ways to get several different appeals and the clock starts over. At some point, the judicial system will decide that there is nothing further that can be shown and an execution date will be set. That may be enough to spur people into action to fight for some other set of appeals although it probably won’t work.

I’m not a lawyer, but that just doesn’t sound quite accurate. Time and time again, when an execution is carried out, I’ve heard the statement that the condemned persons’ appeals had run out.

Having said that, they can continue to file appeals IF there is new evidence that may possibly change the original outcome.

It’s either infinite, or it’s not.

Why set it for so far in advance? Why not stick the needle in right there and move on?

It is accurate, there is no state or federal code that says you only get X appeals. That you have heard the con’s appeals have run out is simply a literary fiction.

It really is mostly about the appeals process. A death row inmate can ask for as many appeals as he/she wants. The courts will generally grant one or more of them to ensure due process takes place. Some states even have an automatic appeal for death row inmates. Lawyers may be able to keep this going for a while but at some point, the courts won’t be willing to hear them anymore. You get to ask for as many appeals as you want but the courts don’t have to listen unless there is something truly new.