Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice: 1965

Frye familyFrye familyThe arrest of a young African American driver sparks several days and nights of violence in Watts and other areas of South Central Los Angeles. The Lieutenant Governor calls the National Guard to help quell the rioting. Police arrest nearly 4,000 people.

Criminal Justice: 1967

Century City MarchCentury City MarchLos Angeles police officers attack largely middle-class white anti-Vietnam War demonstrators marching in Century City. Hundreds file complaints.



Aaron Mitchell is the last person to be executed in California for 25 years. Protest at the execution of Aaron MitchellProtest at the execution of Aaron Mitchell

Criminal Justice: 1972

California Supreme Court rules in People v. Anderson that the death penalty violates the state constitutional provision prohibiting cruel or unusual punishment. As a result, 107 inmates are removed from death row and re-sentenced to life imprisonment.

U.S. Supreme Court rules in Furhman v. Georgia that the death penalty is not being applied in a constitutional manner because capital punishment standards vary widely from state to state. The decision effectively places a moratorium on capital punishment until states devise practices that pass constitutional standards.

Voters pass Proposition 17 restoring capital punishment in California. But the death penalty is not enforced because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Furhman ruling.

Criminal Justice: 1975

In a case arising from the targeting of specific United Farm Workers union strike leaders for arrest, the state supreme court in Murgia v. Superior Court rules that a particular class of people cannot be singled out by law enforcement for criminal prosecution.

Criminal Justice: 1976

In Gregg v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court ends the moratorium on capital punishment after several states enact new laws offering “guided discretion” for imposition of the death penalty.

Criminal Justice: 1977

By one vote the state legislature overrides a veto by Governor Jerry Brown of a law reinstating the death penalty for first degree murder with special circumstances.

Rose BirdRose BirdGovernor Brown appoints death penalty opponent Rose Bird to be chief justice of the state supreme court and the first woman to serve on that court.

Criminal Justice: 1978

Voters pass an initiative expanding the number of crimes punishable by death, the first of several initiatives to expand the death penalty.

Criminal Justice: 1982

Edward LawsonEdward LawsonIn Kolender v. Lawson, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down California’s vagrancy law as too vague.

Voters pass Proposition 8, dubbed the "Victims' Bill of Rights," a wide-ranging initiative that, among other things lengthens criminal sentences and eviscerates state court rulings banning illegally-obtained evidence.

Criminal Justice: 1986

A coalition of business and “tough on crime” groups convince California voters to reject state supreme court Chief Justice Rose Bird and associate justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin, all of whom oppose the death penalty.

Criminal Justice: 1987

Homeless in LAHomeless in LALos Angeles police seize or destroy the property of hundreds of homeless people in Skid Row. Nearly a thousand are arrested for not complying with Police Chief Daryl Gates’s order to leave the area. But City Attorney James Hahn refuses to “prosecute people for being poor.”

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