Mothers of Murder Victims React to Death Penalty Ruling

"They had no idea when they went for a bike ride they'd die. I think that's unconstitutional," said the mother of Jonathan Sellers

Five years after her 14-year-old daughter Amber Dubois disappeared and was later found raped and murdered by convicted killer John Gardner, Carrie McGonigle stares at pictures of her daughter on a computer, wondering what if.

"I was looking at pictures of her today realizing she would be 19," she said Wednesday.

McGonigle's grief has turned to outrage now that a federal judge has ruled California's death penalty is unconstitutional because it violates the ban on "cruel and unusual punishment."

“What my daughter went through, that was cruel and unusual. That was horrible so they deserve what they get. An eye for an eye, " exclaimed McGonigle.

Amber's killer isn't on death row because to avoid the death penalty for killing 17-year-old Chelsea King, Gardner agreed to plead guilty to both murders.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney in Orange County called the system "dysfunctional" and "arbitrary" in his 29-page ruling on Wednesday.

Milena Sellers-Phillips' son, Jonathan, was one of two young boys raped, tortured, and murdered more than 20 years ago.

Their convicted killer is one of the 40 cases from San Diego that could be affected by the decision.

“My 9-year-old son didn't know he was going to die at 9. Charlie, he had no idea. They had no idea when they went for a bike ride they'd die. I think that's unconstitutional," Sellers-Phillips said.

Of the 900 people sentenced to death in California since 1978, only 13 have been executed. One reason why Brenda Van Dam believes in doing away with the death sentence even though her 7-year-old daughter Danielle's killer, David Westerfield, is still on death row 12 years after being convicted.

"If we aren't going to actually follow through , why waste money to put prisoners there. Put them in general population without possibility of parole," Van Dam said.

California has not executed anyone since 2006, when a U.S. district court judge decided to block the execution of a convicted murderer because of concerns over the administration of lethal injection.

Carney’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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