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November 8, 2015

California (finally!) officially announces switch to one-drug lethal injection protocol

95498_600California, the state with the largest death row and the seemingly most-dysfunctional and expensive capital punishment system, late last week announced that it is finally going to try to modernize its long-dormant execution protocol.  This extended Los Angeles Times piece provides the details and the back-story:

California unveiled a new method for executing prisoners Friday, proposing a “humane and dignified” single-drug injection protocol that could restart capital punishment after a nearly 10-year hiatus. The regimen would replace a three-chemical method the state used in the past. That mixture was struck down in 2006 by a judge who said it could cause inhumane suffering if one of the drugs failed to work.

The new proposal stems from a lawsuit filed against the state by crime victims' families who favored the death penalty and wished to see it enforced. A settlement of the suit, brought by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, required the state to devise a new lethal injection method by this month.

Executions are not likely to resume immediately, however. Public vetting of the proposal could take a year, and court challenges may follow. In addition, voters may see one or more ballot measures on the death penalty next year....

The new California protocol would allow a choice of four barbiturates for lethal injection: amobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital and thiopental. The selection would be made on a “case-by-case basis, taking into account changing factors such as the availability of a supply of chemical,” according to the proposal, published online Friday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The single-drug protocol creates “a better flexibility, a better system of options,” said Michael Rushford, who heads the foundation that filed the suit. Rushford expressed chagrin over the state's decision to use the regulatory process, which allows two months for public comment and will delay the resumption of executions.

He said officials had dragged their feet in crafting a new policy. He attributed that to Gov. Jerry Brown and Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, who oppose the death penalty although they have said they would enforce it. “If we had a different governor and a different attorney general, these wouldn't be problems,” Rushford said.

Harris' office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton, speaking for the Brown administration, ascribed the delay to the developing national debate over execution methods, not resolved until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June.

At least 16 death row inmates in California have exhausted their appeals and could be executed if the protocol is adopted. The inmates range in age from 49 to 78. One was condemned for crimes that took place 36 years ago.

Some condemned prisoners were stoic when told about the impending arrival of a new execution protocol. “In the meantime, I have my life,” Clifton Perry, 46, said in a recent interview, noting that legal challenges could drag on for years. He was sentenced to death for the 1995 killing of a convenience store owner during a robbery.

California has 749 inmates on death row, the most in the country. Since 1978, the state has executed 13 prisoners, 68 condemned offenders have died from natural causes and 24 have committed suicide....

California voters narrowly defeated a ballot measure in 2012 that would have abolished the death penalty. Eight states have rescinded capital punishment laws since 2000. Death penalty opponents have proposed an initiative for the November 2016 ballot that would replace capital punishment with life without the possibility of parole. Legislative analysts this week said such a move would save California some $150 million a year, by reducing the costs of capital punishment trials and subsequent penalty appeals.

A competing measure, sponsored by law enforcement and victim groups, also has been submitted for state review. That measure would propose changes to speed up executions.

November 8, 2015 at 03:42 PM | Permalink


An early "The Closer" episode had Brenda Lee Johnson compare the execution rate of CA and Texas as a way to encourage a serial killer to not agree to being sent back to Texas. She decided to do it anyway after getting him to confess since she wanted him dead.

Anyways ... "Public vetting of the proposal could take a year, and court challenges may follow. In addition, voters may see one or more ballot measures on the death penalty next year."

Posted by: Joe | Nov 8, 2015 6:52:25 PM

Yes, California, There Is a Death Penalty

Two plaintiffs are asking Gov. Brown and AG Harris to carry out the law.

By Debra J. Saunders – 2.11.15


Posted by: Anon | Nov 8, 2015 7:03:13 PM

Prediction: we will never see another execution in California. But those who think this is unjust can take comfort: each of the dp inmates will never see the light of day. Each will will continue to live in a small cage, never smelling another flower, never seeing another sunset, until each dies of old age, sick, alone and forgotten.

Posted by: observer | Nov 8, 2015 8:55:49 PM

sounds pretty horrible ... no wonder some "volunteer" to die ... but then many other heinous criminals and some less than heinous have to suffer in little cages. We don't give an "easy" way out, so that isn't a great argument for the death penalty either.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 8, 2015 9:43:40 PM

Although I know and like some of the death penalty defense appellate lawyers of California, I would support their being kneecapped by members of victims families. I do not support their assassinations, because they would be replaced by others of their ilk. I do not think arguing or talking can ever have a benefit because their livelihoods depend on their morally reprehensible work. They are mortal enemies of the murder victims and their families. They give no quarter to these unfortunates, and it is time to move against them.

I was gratified to learn a criminal law judge in Texas was shot and survived. I will be interested in her future decisions to protect, empower, and privilege the ultra-violent predator. For her, police response time was a couple of minutes, just as it is in my lawyer neighborhood. Naturally, the police, the agents of the prosecution, are going all out to get her attacker. She gets massive manhunt investigation for her non-life threatening injuries, when the murders of black males get a cursory investigation.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 9, 2015 2:10:59 AM

Guns are quicker.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Nov 10, 2015 5:55:07 PM

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