For Immediate Release: June 11, 2013
Contact: Chelsea Bond at 415-243-0143 or

Ruling provides further evidence that California’s death penalty is dysfunctional and broken beyond repair

(San Francisco, CA) In a rare decision yesterday, Judge Terrence Van Oss of San Joaquin County Superior Court overruled a jury recommendation of the death penalty for convicted inmate John Lydon in favor of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Van Oss is a former Deputy District Attorney who prosecuted multiple capital cases, and as a judge sentenced another San Joaquin County man to death in 2003.

“The decision by Judge Van Oss to overrule the jury recommendation was unusual and practically unheard of, but it makes sense that judges are less willing to sentence people to die given the state of California’s death penalty, said Courtney Minick, Board Member of Death Penalty Focus.

“California’s death penalty is a costly charade. Sending another person to death row with the knowledge that they will never be executed is an exercise in futility. Life in prison without the possibility of parole is a harsh punishment and a less expensive alternative. Now more than ever, prosecutors and judges are seeing that and deciding against the death penalty.”

Since 1978, California has executed 13 people, while 60 death row inmates have died of natural causes. A recent decision by the California 1st District Court of Appeals invalidated California’s lethal injection protocol, leaving the state with no legal way to execute people.

“With California’s death penalty on hold for the foreseeable future, and the costs continuing to rise with every passing year, it’s clear that there is no way to “fix” the system. Judge Van Oss made the right decision in sentencing Lydon to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” said Minick.


Founded in 1988, Death Penalty Focus is one of the largest nonprofit advocacy organizations in the nation dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment through public education; grassroots and political organizing; original research; media outreach; local, state and nationwide coalition building; and the education of religious, legislative and civic leaders about the death penalty and its alternatives. For more information, visit

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