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Indybay Feature
Fri Dec 15 2006 (Updated 12/18/06)
Judge Finds That California's Lethal Injections Are Faulty
Death Sentences on Hold in California and Florida
On Friday, December 15th, US District Judge Jeremy Fogel said that the State of California's lethal injection protocol may be unconstitutional. In his 17-page decision (imc_pdf.gif PDF ), Fogel urged Governor Schwarzenegger to immediately address "significant problems" with the state's lethal injection procedures before executions can resume on the nation's largest death row.

In the order, Judge Fogel cites a lack of screening and improper training of executioners, unreliable record-keeping, improper handling and admininistration of drugs used in executions (anomalies in six execution logs imply that certain inmates may have been conscious when pancuronium bromide or potassium chloride was injected), and a poorly designed execution chamber. Fogel's decision stems from a challenge by convicted rapist and murderer, Michael Morales, that California's lethal injection protocol violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Most death sentences in the US are carried out through lethal injection. The lives of Michael Morales, and all other California death row inmates will now be spared until these flaws are "fixed."

Individuals who have witnessed executions attest to the fact that these executions are not simple, painless procedures. Barbara Becnel, advocate for Stanley Tookie Williams, witnessed Williams' execution on December 13, 2005. The execution, which Becnel calls "torture-murder," took 35 minutes. The State has admitted that it was botched. She said, "But now the truth about executions has been shown to the world."

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty plans to step up its efforts after this decision. CEDP and other organizations will hold a press conference soon in support of death row prisoner Kevin Cooper, who has an appeals hearing on January 9th, 2007. Death Penalty Focus is encouraging death penalty opponents to write to local papers, post comments on blogs and sites like Indybay, or call in to talk radio shows to discuss lethal injection. One of the key messages that the organization wants to impart is that this issue is just one symptom of the massive crisis that California's prison system is facing.

The state of Florida has suspended executions after a medical examiner said Friday that prison officials botched the insertion of the needles when Angel Nieves Diaz was put to death this week. Governor Jeb Bush has said that he will not sign any death warrants until the panel that is investigating the state's death process completes its final report by a March 1st deadline.

Statements from Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Death Penalty Focus | imc_article.gif 12/15 Report from Vinny Lombardo | imc_audio.gif 9/28 Audio about a hearing | imc_audio.gif 10/2 Audio about hearings | Legal Challenges to lethal injection as "cruel and unusual" | Human Rights Watch Report: States Negligent in Use of Lethal Injections | Autopsy Results Expose Cruelty of Lethal Injection
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