Elisabeth Semel

Florida Executes Inmate As Report Cites ‘Continuing Erosion’ Of Death Penalty

Elisabeth Semel quoted in NPR, December 14, 2018

In an interview with NPR, Elisabeth Semel, director of the Death Penalty Clinic at Berkeley Law school said that despite the fact that executions are up slightly from a 25-year low in 2016, “there’s no question that this is a dramatic downward trend.” Semel said Americans’ support of the death penalty has chilled since it reached a fervor during the “tough on crime” mentality of the 1980s and 90s. “I think there’s been a reassessment, just as there’s been a reassessment about mass incarceration,” Semel said. “It’s become less of a battle cry for politicians than it used to be.”

Capital Beat: Repeal aside, New Hampshire not ready for executions

Elisabeth Semel and Franklin Zimring quoted by Concord Monitor, April 30, 2018

Protocols that were designed poorly or improperly have opened some states up to constitutional challenges upon implementation, according to Elisabeth Semel … tying them up in even more legal delays. … “It sounds like New Hampshire has a lot of work to do,” Semel said Friday.

“What’s going on here a status competition,” said Frank Zimring … speaking on New Hampshire’s repeal efforts. “What’s going on here is the symbolic dance which has absolutely nothing to do with pushing the state close to actual execution.”

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.”