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Death Sentence Reversals Raise Questions Among Capital Lawyers

Publication Date: 
July 26, 2012
Daily Journal
Emily Green

Professor Robert Weisberg is quoted in an article on a recent string of death penalty reversals. Daily Journal's Emily Green reports:

But a string of wins in capital cases in recent months has some foes of the punishment feeling cautiously optimistic. Since December, the court has reversed five death sentences following two years of straight affirmances.

"They're on a hot streak," said attorney Cliff Gardner, who represents capital inmates.


"There is a pretty clear theme, which is very aggressive review of the sort that we saw a million years ago on the Bird court and then didn't at all under the Lucas court and have only seen intermittently since," said Robert Weisberg, co-director of Stanford Law School's Criminal Justice Center.


Between 1977 and 1986, the court under Chief Justice Rose Bird reversed nearly all death penalty cases that came before it, a trend that ended when Malcolm Lucas succeeded her. Chief Justice Ronald George had a more mixed record, according to Weisberg.


..."Normally you are going to see a fair amount of deference to the trial judge. And [in these cases] they are not very deferential," Weisberg said. "The state Supreme Court has clearly signaled they are going to crack down on judges who dismiss these arguably anti-death penalty jurors too abruptly."