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September 18, 2008

Will California ever get back in the execution business?

Howard Mintz has this interesting piece in the San Jose Mercury News, headlined "Appeals Court to Consider State's Death Penalty Gridlock."  Here are excerpts:

Five months after the U.S. Supreme Court offered a legal road map to states dealing with challenges to lethal injection, California is no closer to resuming executions on the nation's largest death row.

Today, however, the legal battle over lethal injection in this state will finally inch forward when an appeals court in San Francisco considers one of the two cases paralyzing California's death penalty machinery.  While the hearing will not catapult the standoff over lethal injection in the state to a conclusion, it is a first step toward kick-starting a legal showdown that will decide whether the state's execution method can pass muster in the courts....

Today's hearing is just one wrinkle in the long-running battle over lethal injection in California, where executions have been on hold for more than two years because of a lawsuit arguing that the method is cruel and unusual punishment... In the meantime, the new death chamber has been completed while the court fights have been dormant.  And other than the addition of a few more inmates to death row — which now exceeds 670 condemned murderers — not much else has happened.

September 18, 2008 at 08:59 AM | Permalink


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I think the argument that the death penalty is cruel and unusual has pretty much run its course. State-sponsored murder is so prevalent that execution cannot be described as unusual. As far as the cruelty side -- the drug cocktail used in lethal injection was designed to replace the more barbaric electric chairs and gas chambers.

I think, on this issue, the courts follow public opinion and, if the goal is the abolition of the death penalty, the public needs to be shown cases in which those on death row have been exonerated by either re-examining the evidence or by use of new technology. Once the public's support of the death penalty is eroded, the courts will be more receptive to arguments to abolish it.

Paul B. Kennedy
Attorney at Law

Posted by: Paul B. Kennedy | Sep 18, 2008 10:33:31 PM

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