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December 16, 2011

California state judge finds more problems with state's lethal injection plans

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "Judge plans on tossing California's death penalty," a state judge appears poised to make it still harder for California to ever get back in the death penalty business.  Here is the start of the piece:

A Marin County judge will decide Friday whether to finalize his decision to toss out California's newly adopted lethal injection procedure after he ruled prison officials failed to properly adopt the state's new procedures for lethal injection execution. In a tentative ruling Thursday, Marin County Superior Court Judge Faye D'Opal found prison officials failed to properly consider a one-drug alternative to the three-drug lethal injection cocktail used to execute inmates.

Attorneys representing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will get a chance to change the judge's mind during a hearing Friday morning. CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Thursday the department was reviewing the lengthy ruling and declined to comment.

If the judge upholds his ruling, it would throw California's stalled capital punishment system into further doubt. Prison officials would either have to appeal or again revise their lethal injection procedures and submit them to public comment, a process that took more than a year last time.

It also could become the second court ruling barring executions in California. A federal judge imposed a de facto moratorium on executions in 2006 after finding the lethal injection process flawed in the state.   One of the state's responses to that finding was to adopt the new regulations, which D'Opal's tentative ruling said was severely deficient.

D'Opal said that prison officials failed to properly explain why they rejected a one-drug process using only a barbiturate, even though one of their experts recommended it as being superior to the three-drug cocktail CDCR adopted. The judge wrote that critics of the three-drug lethal injection submitted comments to the CDCR saying that one of those three drugs -- pancuronium bromide -- "is unnecessary, dangerous, and creates a risk of excruciating pain."

D'Opal said that the CDCR also failed to disclose the costs of executions, all of which are conducted at San Quentin Prison in Marin County.   The judge noted that former San Quentin Prison Warden Jeanne Woodford said each execution costs the state between $70,000 and $200,000 in overtime for staff, crowd control, training, security and other expenses with carrying out lethal injections.   D'Opal also took exception to three new procedures introduced without explanations in the new protocols.

December 16, 2011 at 10:45 AM | Permalink


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Another idiot judge who has justly earned the white-hot hatred of victims' families.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 16, 2011 12:22:02 PM


At least this is a state judge considering state law. On this issue I actually likely agree with him, the CA DOC likely did not follow the correct administrative procedure for adopting a new rule. This is far different from Fogel.
Or even worse the habit lately that SCOTUS has been trying to tamp out of federal courts trying to make federal rights out of misapplied state law on habeas.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Dec 16, 2011 12:35:51 PM

Somehow I doubt that California courts are as hard on environmental regs as they are on this one.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 16, 2011 2:31:26 PM

Hooray for the medical professionals who refuse to participate in the State's macabre execution process!!

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Dec 16, 2011 5:10:53 PM

CCDC, just remember, you;re dancing on the feelings of victims' families who have waited far too long for justice. Nice morals you have there.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 17, 2011 3:32:18 PM

I don't think California is going to have an "execution process" at all the way it is going.

Posted by: DaveP | Dec 17, 2011 4:01:46 PM

Federalist --- Not all family members of murder victims share your blood lust; many of them have stated, publicly, that LWOP sentences are fine with them, even preferable.

Health care professionals take the Hippocratic Oath; if they participate in the premeditated murder of a human being, which is what an execution is, they violate their oath.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Dec 17, 2011 4:37:21 PM

Teri Winchell's mom is being put through agony. You cheer it. Own it.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 17, 2011 5:53:35 PM


Are you familiar with the Cal. Supreme Court's decision in Morales?

Also, are you a federalist or an anti-federalist, or do you know?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Dec 17, 2011 9:45:41 PM

I didn't realize, CCDC, that having an opinion on the actions of state court judges precluded one from being a federalist.

Perhaps you could answer my point about your cheering for a result that torments a victims' mother.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 18, 2011 9:34:17 AM


Do you have any understanding of the legal issues in the Morales case?

I cheer for the integrity of physicians and other health care providers who refuse to violate their oaths by participating in state-sponsored murder.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Dec 18, 2011 4:51:43 PM

Yes, I am. And I don't really care about your cheering for something that puts victims' families through this hell. And I am sure you are cool with unelected medical boards threatening doctors who participate.

As for "state-sponsored murder," I've debunked that BS before.

Face it, CCDC, you are a moral pygmy. Enjoy your laughs at the expense of Teri Winchell's mom. Your clients are still rotting away.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 18, 2011 6:35:20 PM

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