California jurors sentenced 215 murderers to death during the last decade, or around one death sentence for each 100 homicide arrests, according to new state data. That's down 30 percent from the previous decade, a drop that is partially explained by falling murder rates. It's been several years since the state last put a condemned inmate to death, as officials deal with concerns over the drug used to execute killers.
Killers are sentenced to die much more often is some parts of the state than others. This map shows which California counties sentenced the highest percentage of murder suspects to death from 2000 to 2009.
--Interview with former Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco.
--Interview with ACLU researcher Natasha Minsker.
Among large counties, Riverside had the highest rate of death penalty convictions. Here's what former Riverside District Attorney Rod Pacheco had to say in an interview with The Bee in 2009, edited for length, about his office's approach to prosecuting murders during the last decade. He started out by noting that many of the convictions came or started under his predecessor's watch ...
The Northern California ACLU has published extensive studies of geographic patterns in death penalty convictions, arguing that they show where a murderer lives is often the most important factor in whether he gets condemned. Natasha Minsker is the director of the office's Death Penalty Policy Program. She started this interview, edited for length, by summarizing her office's findings.