Elisabeth Semel

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.”

Voters could have say on death penalty as death row backs up

Elisabeth Semel interviewed by The California Report, KQED-FM, Jan. 15, 2016

“It’s really a disservice to the people of the state to perpetuate something that not only doesn’t work effectively, but really is irreparable. … The prospect of executing 745 people is illusory.  So, there will be a randomness to the number of people we execute in the state until we finally recognize that we’re done with it.”

9th Circuit impugns Arizona’s sentencing

Elisabeth Semel interviewed by Daily Journal (registration required), Dec. 30, 2015

“It is entirely in keeping with the precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court,” Semel said. In recent cases reviewing the use of a causal nexus rule in Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a “nexus requirement prevents a sentencer from giving meaningful consideration to constitutionally relevant mitigation,” Semel said.

Prosecutor’s memory lapse yields habeas relief

Elisabeth Semel interviewed by Daily Journal (registration required), Nov. 23, 2015

“I think the court was more generous with the prosecutor than I would have been … especially since the panel acknowledged that the prosecutor basically regurgitated the state court’s rank speculation as to why he might have struck the juror. It was as if the state court provided him a script.”