Two Capital Cases in Riverside County Challenged under CA Racial Justice Act

By Alyssa Eng

RIVERSIDE, CA – Two individuals in Riverside County are challenging prosecutors’ decisions to seek the death penalty, using the California Racial Justice Act.

As of 2020, the CRJA allows people to challenge the pursuit of the death penalty in their cases with statistical evidence of racial disparity.

Prior to the passing of the CRJA, the McKleskey v. Kemp decision stated challenges to the death penalty need to demonstrate overt racial bias in an individual’s trial.

According to ACLU legal fellow Robert Ponce, the CRJA was created to address the fact that “racial discrimination in charging, conviction, and sentencing decisions is a systemic problem that requires a systemic analysis and a systemic solution.”

These individuals are among the first to utilize the act, said the ACLU, noting they are bringing their challenge on the basis of a history of racial discrimination against Black individuals in Riverside County.

The ACLU refers to the county as “one of the most prolific death sentencing counties in the nation,” maintaining “from 2015-2019, Riverside County accounted for over a third of California’s death sentences — while only accounting for six percent of the state’s population.”

Once of the studies referred to by the ACLU finds “almost a third of those with capital charges in Riverside County are Black, even though Black adults comprise 6.3 percent of Riverside County residents.”

A judge heard arguments from both parties debating the necessity of a testimonial hearing last Friday, and is expected to render a decision soon.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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