Friday, 19 January 2007

LI Spotlight Returns to California

LI Spotlight Returns to California

The State of California says it will alter lethal injection procedures later this year to comply with a federal judge's ruling. Henry Weinstein of the Los Angeles Times has, "State to propose execution revisions."

In response to a scathing opinion from a San Jose federal judge, California officials said Tuesday that they would issue a report by May 15 outlining revisions they propose for the state's lethal injection executions.
State authorities said their written report would address "deficiencies" identified in December by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who concluded that current procedures create an unnecessary risk that condemned inmates will suffer an unconstitutional level of pain.

However, a new controversy arose as state officials announced that they want to keep the process of how they arrive at their revisions secret.
In his Dec. 15 ruling, Fogel said the state's system "is broken, but … can be fixed."

He listed a number of serious problems with how the death penalty is implemented in California, including poorly trained staff; unreliable record-keeping involving drugs used in the process; improper mixing, preparation and administration of drugs; and overcrowded conditions in the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

The San Francisco Chronicle has, "State wants 4 months and secrecy to revamp execution procedures."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked a federal judge on Tuesday for four months to revamp the state's lethal injection procedures and also requested that the administration be allowed to come up with the changes in secret.

In filings with U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel, the administration said it would tell Fogel on May 15 how it would change death penalty procedures that the judge described as so flawed that they bordered on unconstitutional.

The San Jose Mercury News has, " Schwarzenegger promises execution changes."

In court papers, the governor did not expand upon his statements of last month, when he instructed top officials in his administration to come up with a plan to overhaul the state's approach to lethal injections. But Schwarzenegger assured U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel that his office is moving forward with an effort to ``make certain'' the execution process is constitutional.

The governor's filing is a direct response to an order issued in December by Fogel, who put executions on hold indefinitely because the state's lethal-injection procedure has so many flaws that it risks violating the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
In his ruling, Fogel called the state's execution protocol ``deeply disturbing'' and its execution method ``broken.'' He found that a range of problems, from poor training of execution team members to sloppy handling of the fatal cocktail of drugs, must be corrected to ensure lethal injection is constitutional in California.

But Fogel told the state that its procedure could be ``fixed,'' inviting the governor to come up with a plan to correct the flaws. The governor ordered state officials to examine a number of key areas, including improved training of execution team members, updating San Quentin's antiquated death chamber and doing a better job of record keeping in monitoring executions.

The Sacramento Bee carries an AP report, "Governor promises court review of lethal injection by May 15."

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled last month that the state's execution protocol was unconstitutional because it could result in condemned inmates feeling excruciating or unnecessary pain. But he gave the state the opportunity to try to fix the procedures.
Fogel said executioners were poorly trained, worked in dim, cramped quarters and failed to properly mix the lethal, three-drug cocktail used to kill condemned inmates.

The judge said there was substantial evidence that the last six men executed at San Quentin Prison might have been conscious and still breathing when lethal drugs were administered - meaning they might have felt unnecessary pain.

California has been under a capital punishment moratorium since last February, when Fogel halted the execution of convicted rapist and murderer Michael Morales.

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