January 31, 2007
Media seeks sunshine on lethal injection changes
SAN JOSE - Five news organizations asked a federal judge Wednesday to
prevent California officials from coming up with a new procedure for
executing inmates in secret.
The filing came in response to a request from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to
keep the internal debate leading up to the proposed changes out of the court
record. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel declared California's existing
lethal injection method unconstitutional last year, ruling the procedure
might result in inmates succumbing to unnecessary pain.
Schwarzenegger said the state would come up with a revised execution plan by
May 15, but argued that consultants, experts and others might be reluctant
to share information if their ideas or recommendations became public.
The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee
and Modesto Bee said Wednesday that such secrecy would be illegal. They said
Proposition 59, approved by 83 percent of voters in 2004, allows "the public
to see and understand the deliberative process through which decisions are
A hearing on the media's request was set for Feb. 20.
Ruling on an appeal from death row inmate Michael Morales, Fogel essentially
halted capital punishment in California are finding that executioners were
poorly trained, worked in dim, cramped quarters and failed to properly mix
the lethal drugs used to put prisoners to death.
Morales, 47, of Stockton, raped, beat and stabbed Terri Winchell, 17, of
Lodi, in 1981.
The case is Morales v. Tilton, 06-219.
Source : Associated Press