Execution Dates close to Being set for 18 Inmates after California Supreme Court Ruling
In August, the state Supreme Court ruled to upholding much of a prosecution backed initiative seeking to speed up the death penalty process, which cleared the way for the prison system to approve new rules for lethal injections for the first time in more than a decade. If a federal judge finds the procedures constitutional, execution dates could be set within a year for 18 prisoners, including four from the Bay Area, whose final appeals of their death sentences have been rejected. California, which has almost 750 inmates on the nation’s largest Death Row, last performed an execution in January 2006. Shortly afterward, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose halted further executions until the state fixed problems in injection procedures and staff training that he believed created a serious risk of a botched and agonizing execution in violation of constitutional standards.
Judge Fogel later left the bench to run the Federal Judicial Center and the case was reassigned to U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg of San Francisco, who kept all the executions as pending. Meanwhile, state prison officials rewrote the injection procedures, were rejected by a state judge for failing to hold public hearings, and were then sued by murder victims’ families for allegedly dragging their feet on the regulations. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration was forced to settle the suit and agreed to draft new procedures for executions with a single lethal barbiturate, replacing the now unavailable three-drug combination the state had used since 1996. The rules drew thousands of public comments, mostly critical, but officials now can disregard those objections and make the procedures final under a provision of Proposition 66, the ballot measure that was passed this past November, and which the high court upheld in August. Now, it’s just a matter of the 18 inmates to actually get their execution dates.