California Court Rejects New Lethal Injection Procedures

On December 16, Marin County Superior Court Judge Faye D’Opal rejected California’s new lethal injection protocols because corrections officials failed to consider a one-drug execution method now in practice in other states. Judge D’Opal also criticized the state for ignoring requirements of the law regarding the revision of official procedures. A federal court has also imposed a stay of executions while it is reviewing the state’s 3-drug lethal injection procedures. In 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel halted all executions because of concerns that executions in California could result in excessive and unnecessary pain. No executions have occurred since then. Natasha Minsker, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said, “The time has come to replace the death penalty with life in prison with no chance of parole. Any attempt to devise new lethal injection rules will take an enormous amount of public employee time and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.” A study published earlier this year by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell estimated that taxpayers have spent $4 billion to carry out the state’s 13 executions since 1978 and at least $184 million a year to maintain California’s capital punishment system.

(C. Williams, “California’s new lethal injection protocol tossed by judge,” Los Angeles Times, December 17, 2011). See Recent Legislative Activity and Lethal Injection. An initiative to repeal the state’s death penalty will likely be on the electoral ballot in November, 2012. Money saved would be used to help solve cold cases.