Another California Death Row Inmate Found Dead at San Quentin
Earlier this month an inmate on death row was found dead at the San Quentin State Prison. Emilio Avalos was facing the death penalty for two Desert Hot Springs murders. He had been on death row since his conviction in 2013 and was in the middle of a lengthy appeals process. Avalos is the latest in a number of California death row inmates who have died while awaiting their executions.
California reinstated its death penalty in 1978. According to data provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 120 death row inmates have died on since then. Only thirteen of those deaths, however, have been the result of state-imposed executions. The rest of the death row inmates have died of natural causes (74 deaths), suicide (25), and unknown/unresolved causes (8).
The astounding number of death row inmate deaths – whether by foul play, natural causes, or suicide – is problematic and points to serious flaws in California’s death penalty system. California has not executed an inmate since 2006, primarily because it has been on the losing end of many Constitutional challenges to its lethal injection protocols. This, in addition to the fact that death penalty appeals take an average of 25 years in California, has resulted in a bloated and overloaded death row. Inmates on death row are housed in conditions that are described as “mentally harsh.” It is not surprising to inmates and prison staff that California’s death row has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.
Today, there are 745 men and women on California’s death row. It is unclear when the state will begin to execute its death row inmates again. Until California can expedite its appeals process and develop a lethal injection protocol that can guarantee a humane death, the number of death row inmates to die while waiting for their executions will continue to rise.