Death Penalty

Lawsuit Seeks Drug Protocol Change to Resume Executions in California

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Michael Angelo Morales

I am a few days late to this story, but at least someone (her brother) is trying to obtain justice for Terri Lynn Winchell.

The killer of a woman brutally murdered more than 30 years ago still sits on death row. The victim’s brother is suing to resume executions in California. The lawsuit seeks to end the legal logjam that has put a hold on executions at San Quentin State Prison for six years. The delays involve questions over the use of lethal injections.

More than 700 inmates sit on California’s death row. Not one has been executed in six years. Former governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian are on a team of lawyers seeking to help the families of murdered victims.

“I get sick to my stomach,” said Bradley Winchell, the victim’s brother. “I am asking this court to set it right.”

Bradley Winchell says he’s been waiting more than three decades for closure. His sister Terri was brutally murdered and raped in 1981 in a Lodi vineyard.

Her convicted killer, Michael Morales, sits on San Quentin’s death row and is one of 14 inmates who have exhausted all their appeals.

But just as Morales was about to be executed in 2006, a judge granted a reprieve, allowing Morales’s lawsuit to move forward after he claimed the three-drug lethal injection method was cruel and unusual punishment.

Winchell just filed a lawsuit of his own, saying he’s waited long enough. He wants the state to resume executions by moving to a one-drug process currently used in other states.

“I consider 31 years excessive delay, injury to not only myself but my family,” said Winchell.

California’s death penalty has been criticized for many years. Delays often result in decades passing before an execution is carried out.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when those officials with the duty to execute the law care so little about the rights of victims of crime,” said Kent Scheidegger, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

In the meantime, an initiative qualified yesterday and California voters yet again will be asked to vote on whether the death penalty will continue in the state. I, frankly, think that California voters will approve the death penalty – as they have each time.

Here is a video of a news report that tells the story:

This Californian demands justice for Terri Lynn:

Terri Lynn Winchell

The California Department of Corrections needs to speedily change its execution protocol and get on with it.

Michael Morales would then be one of the first to go:

Michael Angelo Morales current photo

Justice for Terri Lynn!

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Death Penalty

California Says NO Excutions in 2011

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The old San Quentin Prison Gas Chamber

What a shocker and from anti-death penalty Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, too.
California corrections officials have put off until at least next year any attempt to resume executions among the 713 condemned inmates on death row, according to court documents.

The request by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to delay review of newly revised lethal-injection protocols until January at the earliest follows a decision last week by Gov. Jerry Brown to scrap plans to build a new death row facility at San Quentin State Prison.

The steps have stirred speculation among death-penalty opponents that California might be drawn into the national trend away from seeking new executions.

The most recent postponement was due to San Quentin warden Michael Martel’s decision to replace the execution team that had been assembled and trained last year. That team had been ready to carry out executions last September. Corrections officials have declined to say why Martel is assembling a new execution team.

The internal corrections department revisions were disclosed during a meeting of the department’s lawyers last week with U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel. The San Jose judge overseeing a federal case that has halted executions for the last five years expressed frustration with the protracted process and concern that the public doesn’t understand why it has taken so long to correct flaws in the execution procedures.

UC Santa Cruz professor Craig Haney, who opposes capital punishment and has tracked public attitudes on the death penalty for 30 years, said Brown’s decision to scuttle new death row construction to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and the corrections department’s slowing down of its efforts to resume executions are “examples of the increasing signs that the death penalty’s days are numbered in the United States.”

I think it is time for California voters to ask why there has been such a protracted delay in enforcing the law. If there are problems with the lethal injection method, even after spending close to a $ million on a new execution chamber, then why not resume use of the gas chamber. Photo below:

The newly renovated San Quentin Prison Death Chamber

AP Photo
If the California legislature needs to change the capital punishment law to facilitate a return to the gas chamber or hanging, so be it. My best guess is that Jerry brown would veto such legislation. The only recourse would be an initiative campaign by the voters of California – which of course, will take years or an election cycle.

So, don’t count on any executions to be held in California any time within the next few years – at least while Jerry Brown is governor.

.
No justice yet for Terri Lynn Winchell.

An attorney for death row inmate Michael A. Morales, whose February 2006 execution was called off by Fogel over concerns that the former procedures could inflict unconstitutional pain, said the latest delays reflect a more cautious approach in the exercise of capital punishment by Brown’s administration.

“It appears that the state is attempting to be diligent in their obligations under the law, which would be in stark departure from what was the case with Governor [Arnold] Schwarzenegger,” said David Senior, one of Morales’ attorneys.

Terri Lynn Winchell

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Death Penalty

Judge Jeremy Fogel Tours New San Quentin Lethal Injection Death Chamber

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deathchamber U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel Clears Path for California Executions to Resume   But Will They?

The newly renovated San Quentin Prison Death Chamber

AP Photo

Federal Judge Jeremy today convened a hearing today at San Quentin Prison to inspect the newly renovated lethal injection death chamber.

The federal judge weighing whether California can resume executing condemned prisoners toured San Quentin State Prison’s new lethal injection facility Tuesday in what he called a fact-finding mission to help determine whether the state’s revised procedures meet constitutional standards.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel halted the execution of murderer Michael A. Morales five years ago, citing concerns the execution team was poorly trained, the converted gas chamber too cramped and ill-lit and the state’s method of delivering the three-drug execution cocktail at risk of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.

Whether his concerns have been alleviated by rewriting of the legal protocols guiding the execution process and the physical changes made to the prison venue where death sentences are carried out was not immediately apparent.

The judge asked corrections officials questions about lighting, drug handling, conditions for witnesses and for the inmate’s last hours but gave no indication whether the answers allayed his earlier concerns.

Fogel, leading an entourage of lawyers for the state, Morales and other prisoners facing execution if the practice resumes, went room to room in the clinic-like facility, inspecting the hand-lettered drug vials arrayed on two trays in the infusion room, where the execution drugs are to be mixed and delivered via intravenous tubes threaded through the wall of the adjacent death chamber.

Fogel said he hoped to have a decision about whether executions can proceed “as soon as possible” but set out a schedule for further hearings that will run at least through spring.

Certainly, Judge Fogel is in NO hurry to render a decision which can then be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court. This case has dragged on for five years and nothing yet has been decided, except that California now has the largest Death Row population in the country.

This entire process and Judge Fogel’s conduct of the case is a MOCKERY of the laws of the State of California and the United States. Californians have voted for the restoration of the death penalty and California’s procedures are NO different than those used in other states (which, by the way, have passed Constitutional muster).

Fogel and anti-death penalty advocates are STALLING. Finish the case, Judge and render a decision so your decision can be overturned – and believe me, it will.

No justice yet for Terri Lynn Winchell.

1024415716e6f81febe2625 California Sentences 28 New Prisoners to Death Row While Executing None in 2010

Terri Lynn Winchell

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Albert Greenwood Brown

California Sentences 28 New Prisoners to Death Row While Executing None in 2010

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Michael Angelo Morales

Well, there have been NO executions in California for five years. But, there are some criminals that are being sent to Death Row anyway.
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.

But, federal judge Jeremy Fogel is going to physically review California’s newly modified Death Chamber.

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.

No justice yet for Terri Lynn Winchell.

Terri Lynn Winchell

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