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California State and Federal Courts Overturn Three Death Sentences
Los Angeles, Calif.
   
 
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State and fed­er­al courts have over­turned three California death sen­tences in a span of two weeks from late June to mid-July 2022. Death-row pris­on­ers Richard Clark, Michael Bramit, and Andrew Lancaster were all grant­ed relief on claims relat­ed to defense counsel’s inad­e­quate per­for­mance or jury-relat­ed issues. Clark and Bramit will receive new penal­ty-phase trials.

Andrew Lancaster was sen­tenced to death in Los Angeles County in 1998. After accept­ing a stip­u­la­tion between Lancaster’s coun­sel and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office that Lancaster had been pro­vid­ed inef­fec­tive assis­tance in the penal­ty phase of his cap­i­tal tri­al, a Los Angeles County tri­al court on July 1, 2022 vacat­ed Lancaster’s death sentence. 

On July 14, 2022, a fed­er­al dis­trict court, cit­ing juror mis­con­duct, reversed the death sen­tence imposed on Richard Clark in Santa Clara County in 1987. Judge William H. Orrick of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found that a juror in Clark’s case had con­sult­ed with a reli­gious fig­ure about the pro­pri­ety of vot­ing for the death penal­ty” before decid­ing to vote for death, in vio­la­tion of the juror’s oath to decide the case based sole­ly on the evi­dence pre­sent­ed at trial.

A Riverside County tri­al judge on June 30, 2022 reversed the death sen­tence imposed on Michael Bramit in his 1997 cap­i­tal mur­der tri­al. In a 93-page opin­ion, Superior Court Judge Stephen J. Gallon held that Bramit’s tri­al coun­sel was inef­fec­tive for fail­ing to inves­ti­gate and present mit­i­gat­ing evi­dence and for numer­ous fail­ures to ques­tion jurors about their inabil­i­ty to con­sid­er evi­dence for life. Judge Gallon wrote that Bramit’s attor­ney had pro­vid­ed con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly inef­fec­tive assis­tance … dur­ing jury selec­tion and the penal­ty phase.”

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