Lethal Injection

The Faces of Wrongful Conviction
Conference at UCLA
April 7-9, 2006

California indefinitely postponed the execution of Michael Morales because of questions about the lethal injection process. Morales had been scheduled for execution on February 21, but a federal judge ordered that the state protocols be changed in response to a legal challenge filed by Morales' attorneys. Judge Fogel ordered that the state provide better assurances that the process would not constitute cruel and unusual punishment by either providing an anesthesiologist to monitor the inmate's state of consciousness during the execution, or that the state use only barbiturates in carrying out the execution. The state elected to provide an anesthesiologist, but just before the execution, the doctors who had agreed to be part of the process backed out because they could not ethically participate in the execution.

The state then elected to use only sodium theopental, an anesthetic that will kill a person if given in sufficient quantity, in Morales' execution. The judge agreed, but only if a trained medical professional would administer the injection. The state then elected to postpone the execution. Hearings will be held in May.

There has been considerable controversy about lethal injections, the role of the medical community, how this issue may affect the death penalty. Many similar challenges to lethal injection have been raised in other states.