Saturday, May 8, 2010

IACHR on the Death Row Phenomenon

On March 17, 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) deemed admissible a petition filed on behalf of a California inmate who has been on death row for 18 years but has yet to have his first appeal heard by the Supreme Court of California. (Case No. 12.74) The petition was filed by the University of San Francisco’s Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic on behalf of two groups, Human Rights Advocates and fos*ters. The latter is a group formed in Switzerland to address the specific issues surrounding this inmate’s case.
The IACHR ruled that the petitioner does not have to exhaust domestic remedies to raise the claim that long delays on death row constitute torture because there are none really available to him under the procedures that exist in the United States. If he filed habeas corpus or other actions at this time, he would end up waiving claims that might arise after the appeal is heard since successive petitions are not allowed. Further, the IACHR referred to petitioner’s claim that the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected arguments challenging prolonged detention on death row as cruel and unusual punishment.
The IACHR rejected the United States’ claim that the delay was due to petitioner’s requests for extension since those requests were tied directly to the loss of large portions of the trial transcripts by the trial court. It also mentioned long delays in the appointment of appellate counsel following the trials in California. The IACHR also ruled that the claim regarding the denial of medical care could not go forward without exhaustion of administrative remedies that are available to petitioner.
The IACHR will now consider the merits of the claim that long stays on death row constitute torture. Petitioner has cited to various provisions of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man that are violated by the death row phenomenon. The IACHR ruled that it is competent to examine the alleged violation of articles I, XVIII, XXIV, XXV and XXVI of the American Declaration. The petition cites to cases of the European Court of Human Rights and the Privy Council of Great Britain to support the claim that long periods on death row violate international human rights law. Petitioner will also clarify that the health care situation in the California prison system contributes to the intolerable conditions on death row.

1 comment:

Bikram said...

1. When is this petition likely to be heard on merits?

2. I understand that two similar petitions in Tracy Lee Housel and John Elliott were admitted in 2004. Were decisions on merits made in those cases. I am unable to find any.