In the News

Elisabeth Semel in the news:

The Supreme Court and lethal injection: when is it cruel and unusual?

Elisabeth Semel quoted on ABC Blog, The Note, May 22, 2014

“I would emphasize,” Semel says, “that the state’s insistence on secrecy with regard to the source of the compounded pentobarbital adds to the risk that Mr. Bucklew will suffer an agonizing execution, which the Eighth Amendment prohibits.”

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.

In the face of death: special allegations change how a defendant should be represented

Elisabeth Semel quoted in Times-Standard, March 22, 2013

Semel said whenever the prosecution in a criminal case alleges special circumstances—unless he or she says specifically that they are not seeking the death penalty—it becomes a capital-eligible case. “It is critical that the defense lawyer at that point begins thinking about and investigating the case from that perspective,” she said.

1972 death penalty decision has lasting impact

Elisabeth Semel quoted in KGO-TV, March 4, 2013

“I think it’s hard for the public to grasp this,” UC Berkeley Death Penalty Clinic Director Elisabeth Semel said. “People who’ve been convicted of murder have a better rate of success, that is, a lower recidivism rate, than individuals who commit other types of crimes.”

California death penalty: Will state follow Arizona, which has resumed executions after a long hiatus?

Elisabeth Semel quoted in San Jose Mercury News, January 20, 2013

“At some point,” said Elisabeth Semel, head of UC Berkeley law school’s death penalty clinic, “if all of those (legal challenges) fail, we have to face the prospect of executions.”

Ballots for Bears: California Proposition 34

Elisabeth Semel interviewed by CalTV, October 27, 2012

“If you look at those four thousand people serving the sentence of life without possibility of parole, and you compare them to the 725 people on death row, what you will find is people convicted of the same crimes…. What we see in California is that crime rises and crime falls for various reasons having to do with the economy and all sorts of other considerations, but the amount of violent crime is not traceable to whether we have a deathpenalty or don’t.”

Death penalty sentences waning in East Bay

Elisabeth Semel quoted in San Jose Mercury News, August 18, 2012

“Prosecutors are increasingly willing to use the punishment of life without the possibility of parole and recognize that it is more acceptable to the general public,” said Elisabeth Semel, a professor of law at UC Berkeley Law School. “The decreasing popularity of the death penalty … has an influence in the decision.”

Prosecutors use of death penalty waning in Alameda County

Elisabeth Semel quoted in Oakland Tribune, August 13, 2012

“Prosecutors are increasingly willing to use the punishment of life without the possibility of parole and recognize that it is more acceptable to the general public,” said Elisabeth Semel, professor of law at Berkeley Law School. “The decreasing popularity of the death penalty … has an influence in the decision.”

Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic reaches important milestone

Elisabeth Semel quoted in Clear Admit, June 8, 2012

Clinic Director Elisabeth Semel spoke to the fact that many of the clinic graduates are currently pursuing work in the public sector. She stated: “We must never forget that we are able to represent our clients because our families provided opportunities for us that our clients never had,” she said.

Is the SAFE initiative vote safe?

Elisabeth Semel writes for Daily Journal, June 5, 2012 (registration required)

There is thus great irony in the interest groups that promoted the expansive and multi-pronged criminal justice initiatives in 1982, 1992 and 2002, arguing that the far more limited SAFE California initiative violates the “single subject” rule. They championed and own the broadest and most accommodating interpretation of the “single subject” rule in the area of criminal justice. Now they want to avoid the consequences of their legal handiwork.

Habeas attorneys argue against sanctions in death penalty case

Elisabeth Semel quoted in Daily Journal, May 2, 2012 (registration required)

Elisabeth A. Semel watched from the gallery. She is director of the Death Penalty Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law. She said Reno’s case is not unique. “It’s representative of dozens of other petitions filed in cases where lawyers have been directed by federal courts to exhaust their claims in state court,” she said.

Elisabeth Semel Praises State Public Defender

The Recorder, January 10, 2012 by Cheryl Miller (registration required)

Elisabeth Semel, director of the Death Penalty Clinic at UC-Berkeley School of Law, said Hersek was “very well-respected and well-liked,” and has “brought a certain sense of coherence and consistency and collegiality to that office.”

Elisabeth Semel Notes Impact of Budget Cuts on Capital Cases

Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2011 by Carol J. Williams

“It would be stunning if prosecutors were not impacted by these developments. The financial issues just have to weigh significantly in some cases because prosecutors, defense lawyers and everyone involved in
government in California has had to make extraordinarily difficult choices about how to spend the resources they have, and they are well aware of what capital cases cost,” said Elisabeth Semel, a UC Berkeley law professor and founder of the school’s Death Penalty Clinic.

Elisabeth Semel Discusses Capital Cases, Jury Selection

-Daily Journal, December 6, 2011 by Laura Ernde (registration required; go to H:\Law School in the
News\In the News 2011\News Clips for article)

“It’s not that you take a case to win a case. That’s a preposterous notion,” she said. “But it is deflating to see case after case is affirmed and feel that the prospects for your client are so abysmal.”

-The Beaumont Enterprise, December 6, 2011 by Amy Moore

“My perspective on juries is that we want diversity and we don’t want people to be excluded based on race or gender,” Semel said. “The operative question is what happened in this case? Were black people dismissed by the attorneys from being on the jury or were there not many in the pool to begin with?”

Elisabeth Semel Reviews Death Penalty Policies

KPFA 94.1 FM, September 25, 2011 Host Philip Maldari

“It’s important to remember that between ‘67 and 1992 … particularly in the 80′s, at the height of what some have referred to as the increase in crime in the state of California and elsewhere, we were not putting people to death.”

Elisabeth Semel Criticizes Death Penalty

-The Daily Californian, June 22, 2011 by Jalal Buckley

“There are many problems with its application, particularly how it discriminates against people of color,” Semel said. “It doesn’t prevent crime at the front end, in terms of stopping crimes from happening, it doesn’t provide for rehabilitation, it doesn’t deter crime, it doesn’t work.”

-The Recorder, June 24, 2011 by Kate Moser and Cheryl Miller (registration required; go to H:\Law School in the News\In the News 2011\News Clips for article)

Having more trials in triable cases would be a good thing, death penalty opponents say. “These ought to be going to trial,” said Elisabeth Semel, a professor and director of the Death Penalty Clinic.