California Regulators Reject New Death Penalty Procedures

On June 8, California's Office of Administrative Law rejected the new lethal injection procedures proposed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, identifying several passages that conflicted with state law, that were unclear, or failed to properly state reasons for the new procedures. There has been a de facto moratorium on all executions in the state since 2006 after a federal judge ordered the state to revise its lethal injection process because it posed a risk of severe pain to the inmate being executed.  A state court also ruled that revisions to the execution process were subject to a period of public review and comment before becoming effective.  After drafting new regulations, the state received about 20,000 mostly critical comments from the public.

Among the proposed procedures that were criticized by the regulatory office were guidelines for who is allowed to witness executions. Linda Brown, Deputy Director of the Office of Administrative Law, wrote that the state law spelling out who may witness an execution currently does not include reporters, but the proposed regulations do. She said either the regulations have to be redrafted to eliminate explicit mention of the media or the Legislature needs to change the language of the law to specifically authorize the attendance of reporters.  The office found five passages to be unclear, including how the death warrant is to be presented to an inmate who is scheduled for execution. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging California's death penalty in federal court, said this latest rejection is another reason to repeal the death penalty.  "We believe the flaws are too fundamental and at some point we have to stop," said the ACLU's Natasha Minsker. "This really demonstrates that the CDCR has not really taken the process seriously."

(P. Elias, "Regulators reject new death penalty procedures," Mercury News (AP), June 9, 2010).  See also Methods of Execution and Lethal Injection.