Elisabeth Semel

Prop 66 survives state Supreme Court but loses its fangs

Elisabeth Semel quoted by Daily Journal (registration required), Aug. 25, 2017

If one views the five-year deadline as the heart of the initiative, said Elisabeth Semel … the decision can be seen as a victory for opponents of Proposition 66. “At the end of the day, this is what voters were told was the most important outcome the initiative would achieve. Although the court did not strike the provision down, the court rendered them utterly ineffectual.”

Court to hear challenge to speed up California executions

Elisabeth Semel quoted by Associated Press, June 6, 2017

With a backlog of 380 death penalty appeals, there’s concern judges would be overwhelmed trying to speed through appeals, said Elisabeth Semel. … “There’s an enormous ripple effect to that,” said Semel, who directs the school’s death penalty clinic. “The attention the justices can pay to each individual case is significantly diminished. When you’re talking about life and death, that’s important.”

Death penalty in California: State Supreme Court holds high-stakes hearing Tuesday

Elisabeth Semel quoted by The Mercury News, June 5, 2017

Today, Semel said, the average appeal spans 15 years. To resolve the cases three times as quickly, she said, will likely mean more mistakes as each case receives less attention and offenders are represented by attorneys with limited experience in capital cases. “Where is the critical mass of lawyers going to come from to do this work in an expedited time frame, and who is going to pay for it?” she asked.

Death penalty cases may speed up, but critics say Prop. 66 will not work

Elisabeth Semel quoted by Daily Journal (registration required), Nov. 10, 2016

Prop. 66 attempts to dictate how the state Supreme Court will manage its docket and takes from the Judicial Council the authority to establish the qualifications for defending capital cases and disbursing it to superior courts, Semel said, calling the initiative “a patchwork of ill-conceived ideas” that ignores constitutional rights.

The death penalty thrived at the ballot box, but it’s still declining

Elisabeth Semel quoted by Yahoo! News, Nov. 9, 2016

“As I talked to [voters] who were not lawyers, I found they generally understood Prop. 62 but were absolutely flummoxed by 66,” she said. “Some of them thought, ‘Well, if we can’t get rid of it, perhaps we can remedy it,’ without understanding the particulars of the initiative.”

Initiatives will improve criminal justice system

Elisabeth Semel quoted by Daily Journal (registration required), Nov. 7, 2016

“There is decreased support even among people who philosophically support the death penalty,” said Elisabeth Semel. … She said it harms more than helps the nation, whether it’s “the tremendous costs, the steady number of exonerations, or an increased awareness of how consistently capital punishment is reserved for the poor and people of color.”

On the death penalty, California voters face two stark choices

Elisabeth Semel quoted by San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 14, 2016

“It’s modeled after the laws in Texas, where we know innocent people have been executed,” said Elisabeth Semel, director of the Death Penalty Clinic at UC Berkeley Law School. Death penalty supporters heatedly dispute that claim, but Semel cited the Texas case of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in 2004 for killing his three children in a fire that a series of experts, including one hired by the state, have since concluded was most likely accidental.

Act aims to end death penalty in California

Elisabeth Semel quoted in National Catholic Reporter, June 7, 2016

Semel said switching the system to life without the possibility of parole is estimated to cost just over $11 million per year, as opposed to $150 million. “That is an enormous difference in a state that has profound needs in the area of education, housing and social services.”