California is one of the many states that allow capital punishments to be used for specific crimes. The executions for the state are carried out at San Quentin State Prison. The chamber used is the former gas chamber which has now been converted to a lethal injection chamber.
Capital punishment is allowed only in specific instances such as some cases of first-degree murder, kidnapping where the victim dies, train wrecking where a person dies, treason against the state, and assault carried out by a life prisoner when the victim dies within a year.
Lethal injection has been the only available option available to death row inmates since 1993. Prior to then, an inmate was given the option of either the gas chamber or lethal injection. Following a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, the gas chamber was no longer allowed as it was deemed cruel and unusual punishment. Technically, the death row inmates are still given a choice but the gas chamber option will never be carried out.
Over the course of its history, California has utilized 4 different methods of capital punishment. Prior to 1849, death was by firing squad. From 1849 to 1937, hanging was the method that was used most frequently (there were only two deaths by firing squad and those were in 1851 and 1852). From 1937 to 1993 the gas chamber was the method of choice. From 1994 through the present, California has used strictly the lethal injection.
There are very specific situations that elicit a capital punishment option for first degree murder. These include, but are not limited to,
- Murder for financial gain
- A non-first offense conviction for first or second degree murder
- Multiple murders
- Murder committed using explosives
- Murder to avoid arrest or while escaping custody
- Murder in which the victim was an on-duty peace officer, federal law enforcement officer or agent, or firefighter
- Murder of a witness to a crime where the murder was committed to prevent the witness from testifying
- Murders where the crime was especially heinous
- Murder in which the murderer lay in wait for the victim
If you have been charged with a crime that is punishable by capital punishment, not just your freedom but your life can be on the line. Contact the San Jose criminal defense lawyers of the Law Office of Daniel Jensen, P.C. to determine the best course of action for your defense.