Elisabeth Semel

What the ruling on California’s death penalty means

Elisabeth Semel interviewed by Uprising Radio, July 18, 2014

“The delays are fundamentally, primarily, the function of the state’s inability to move these cases any more quickly. The process is arbitrary; there is no rational distinction between individuals who are ultimately executed and those who are not—and instead spend twenty-five plus years on death row—and that in essence violates the 8th amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.”

Federal judge rules California death penalty unconstitutional

Elisabeth Semel quoted in Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2014

Elisabeth Semel … described Wednesday’s decision as “unprecedented in the modern death penalty in California.” “This is an issue that has been discussed in California for decades,” she said. “What he did is both amass and synthesize what [this means] in the context of the 8th Amendment.”

California death penalty ruled unconstitutional

Elisabeth Semel interviewed by Capital Public Radio, July 16, 2014

“If the system is arbitrary, then it doesn’t serve the legitimate purposes of capital punishment, at least as the U.S. Supreme Court has declared them,” she says. “It doesn’t deter, and it doesn’t serve the purpose of retribution.”

Why Oklahoma matters in California

Elisabeth Semel writes for Daily Journal, May 9, 2014 (subscription required)

Those who are chomping at the bit for California to resume executions would do well to pay heed not only to last week’s debacle in Oklahoma, but also to the botched executions that took place in other states over the past few months.

Oklahoma execution nightmare shines light on California policies

Elisabeth Semel quoted in San Francisco Chronicle, May 1, 2014

Elizabeth Semel … agreed that California is less secretive than Oklahoma. But with a dwindling supply of execution drugs, she said, prison officials in other states have resorted to non-FDA chemicals or compound drugs whose manufacturers are reluctant to be identified. “The less reliable the source of chemicals, the greater the need to know who is manufacturing them and what their composition is,” as the Oklahoma execution illustrates, she said.

A question of bias in jury selection

Elisabeth Semel quoted in the Sacramento Bee, January 5, 2014
Semel says the [clinic] brief urges the court “to ultimately decide that when a trial court rejects a Batson objection, the court must explain on the record that it has evaluated all the circumstances related to the issue of discrimination. If a trial judge fails to do so, a reviewing court should not accept the trial court’s unexplained ruling.”

Use of race in peremptory challenges before justices

Elisabeth Semel quoted in National Law Journal, December 11, 2013 (registration required)

“I’m kind of a Batson wonk,” said Semel, who has filed amicus briefs not only in Williams’ case but in other Batson-related Supreme Court cases. “I knew about the [Williams] case before it was argued. When the opinion came down, I said to his lawyer, ‘If you’re interested, I’m interested in doing an amicus brief.’ He said yes.”

Tsarnaevs’ cousin avoids the spotlight

Elisabeth Semel quoted in POLITICO, May 3, 2013

“In a capital case where there’s more than one defendant-suspect, it’s always important to investigate what the relative roles of each of the actors was,” said Elisabeth Semel of the University of California Berkeley law school’s Death Penalty Clinic. She declined to comment on the specifics of the Tsarnaev case.