Trying to Speed up Executions Could Deal ‘Mortal Blow’ to California Supreme Court, Experts Say

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If a November ballot measure to speed up executions goes into effect, the California Supreme Court will have to decide hundreds of death penalty appeals in rapid succession.

A condemned inmate is led out of his cell at San Quentin State Prison in 2016. (Credit: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

That mandate would turn the state’s highest court into what analysts say would be “a death penalty court,” forced for years to devote about 90 percent of its time to capital appeals.

Proposition 66, sponsored by prosecutors and passed by 51 percent of voters, gave judicial leaders 1½ years to make new legal rules and then five years to decide a crushing backlog of appeals.

“Prop. 66 would require the California Supreme Court to decide virtually nothing but death penalty appeals for at least the next five years — almost no civil cases at all and no criminal cases other than capital murder,” said Jon Eisenberg, president of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers.