Michael Angelo Morales
California continued to buck a nationwide trend away from costly and litigious death sentences in 2010, adding 28 new prisoners to the country’s most populous death row, according to correction officials and a national database on capital punishment.
Los Angeles County alone condemned eight defendants to death this year, the same number as Texas, and Riverside County sent six men to await execution, officials said.
The state’s death chamber was idle for a fifth year, though, because of protracted legal challenges of lethal injection practices and a nationwide shortage of the key drug used in the three-injection procedure.
A federal judge who halted lethal injections in California over concerns that it was cruel and unusual punishment plans to tour the state’s new death chamber in February.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel on Wednesday told attorneys representing a death row inmate who filed a lawsuit and the state attorney general’s office that he wants to hold a hearing at San Quentin State Prison sometime in February. Fogel is determining whether the state’s new lethal injection procedure is constitutional.
Fogel halted executions in early 2006 and ordered prison officials to improve their lethal injection process. The judge was concerned that staff members were inadequately trained and the death chamber was too small and dark to properly carry out executions.
Fogel wants to view firsthand the improvements prison officials made to the death chamber since then. Fogel wants to hold the hearing and tour sometime between Feb. 2 and Feb. 9 and asked lawyers to propose a hearing date.
The attorney general’s office asked for Feb. 9 while attorneys for death row inmate Michael Morales, who filed the lawsuit that led to Fogel’s ruling, haven’t made any suggestions yet.
I don’t think Californians can look for justice and enforcement of the death penalty law anytime soon. For the past five years, Judge Fogel has used one legal excuse after another to stifle the law of California (even the U.S. Supreme Court weighed into the argument, allowing executions in other states via lethal injection).
Plus, both newly elected Governor Jerry Brown (who appointed anti-death penalty and later removed California Supreme Court Chief Justice, Rose Bird) and Attorney General Kamala Harris are personally opposed to the death penalty and despite what they say, will be in no hurry to execute Michael Angelo Morales or Albert Greenwood Brown. Look for more legal rangling after Judge Fogel visits the death chamber in February. And, then there is the Morales suit.
Terri Lynn Winchell
The Death Penalty Archive