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September 1, 2010

The latest judicial hold-up of executions in California

The state with the largest death row in the US appears to be trying, by may not be likely, to be able to resume executions soon.  At least that's what I take away from this report in the San Jose Mercury News, which is headlined "Judge again puts state efforts to resume executions on hold."  Here are the details:  

California officials are trying to press forward with resuming executions after a hiatus of more than four years, but the state's lethal injection procedures continue to remain stuck in legal limbo.

A Marin County judge on Tuesday put up the latest roadblock to the state's effort to execute its condemned killers, issuing a brief ruling that for now bars prison officials from moving forward immediately with executions.

The order came the same day that state lawyers argued in federal court that nothing should stand in the way of setting execution dates soon for six death row inmates, including David Allen Raley, condemned to die in Santa Clara County for the 1985 murder of a Peninsula high school student and the attempted murder of her friend.

The new legal developments signal that the state is trying to kick-start the death penalty in California, despite repeated setbacks in the state and federal courts that have effectively shuttered San Quentin's death chamber since the January 2006 execution of Clarence Ray Allen.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation adopted new lethal injection procedures this summer, hoping to resolve state court orders that found the previous rules had been put in place in violation of state regulations, as well as a San Jose federal judge's concerns that the prior lethal injection method risked cruel and unusual executions.

But the new regulations now face new legal challenges. Lawyers for death row inmates filed a lawsuit in Marin County Superior Court, saying they still don't comply with California rules for enacting new regulations. And U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel is now evaluating whether he is free to consider if the new lethal injection procedures, and San Quentin's new death chamber, address concerns that inmates may suffer inhumane deaths from the state's three-drug cocktail of lethal drugs....

In court papers filed Tuesday, Attorney General Jerry Brown's lawyers argued that the state "now has presumptively valid regulations for carrying out lethal injections," and is prepared to defend them if they are challenged in the case being heard by Fogel. State lawyers also disclosed plans to ask a judge to set an execution date later this week for Morales, as well as imminent requests for execution dates for five other inmates who have exhausted their legal appeals. That includes Raley, who would be the first inmate from Santa Clara County executed since the state restored the death penalty in 1978.

But with the Marin judge's order, the federal case and those executions may be put back on hold.... "I don't see how they can proceed at this time," said Sara Eisenberg, a San Francisco lawyer who represents death row inmate Mitchell Sims in the lawsuit challenging the most recent version of the lethal injection procedures.

September 1, 2010 at 04:51 PM | Permalink


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While I understand California's determination to get the process moving, wouldn't it be more logical to ask the state superior court and Judge Fogel to approve the regulations, vacate the stays and then get execution dates?

Posted by: DaveP | Sep 1, 2010 5:15:21 PM

I don't think that would vacate the stays put in place in Marin County. Marin County has jurisdiction over all executions in the state because San Quentin is located within the county.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Sep 1, 2010 6:54:10 PM

The arrogance of that judge in Marin County simply drips from the news report. She ordered that the state go through the process--it did, and now, without any showing from the defense counsel, is going to maintain her stay "unless and until" she sees fit. She should lift the stay, and then allow the defendant to show that a new stay should issue.

Fogel has no business keeping his now moot order in place either. That hack got the law wrong originally and now has the temerity to remain a roadblack to justice. Judge Fogel has interfered long enough, and it is time for this activist in robes to stand down. Typical Clinton judge.

You have to wonder--are these judges simply on the side of people who kill innocent people and then taunt the family about it? I don't see how there's any other takeaway.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 1, 2010 7:49:46 PM

I understand and agree with the last 2 posts. I just don't see both judges agreeing to allow executions without a thorough process. I hope that I am wrong. I think they should expedite matters and get this done. This has gone on for 4 years now. I just don't trust judges in California. Appeal proceedings in that state take a ridiculously long time.
That is assuming that both judges lift the restraining orders and don't grant a stay pending appeal or if the inmates get a stay from the respective appellate courts.

Posted by: DaveP | Sep 1, 2010 8:06:13 PM

isn't the Superior court for Marin County the initial trial court in the California legal system and that originally ruled against the state's regulations? Then, the Court of Appeal affirmed and the State didn't challenge that to the CA Supreme Court.

Posted by: DaveP | Sep 1, 2010 8:11:58 PM

I would think if the state tried that it would be fairly easy to get the federal stay overturned. I'm not sure the state officials are serious enough that they actually want to have the stay lifted, but they needed to appear like they wanted it lifted.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 1, 2010 9:36:55 PM

I do not want to be repetitive about must be done with Judge Fogel.

As the exclusive representative of self-evident logic here, I suggest, outsourcing. Send the condemned to Ohio, and pay that state to dispatch them. Failing that, send the work out to China. Prior to shipment to China, offer the condemned a nice restaurant meal, a cigar, a hooker (reported as a "private visit by a niece" in the official report). In exchange, the condemned undergoes a supervised suicide by a heroin-cocaine self-injection, with the family allowed to hold his hand on the way down. If anyone can think of any element to make this death even nicer, I welcome it.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 1, 2010 10:12:29 PM

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