Ami Bera

Flap’s California Morning Collection: June 20, 2012

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A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

Today, everyone awaits California Controller John Chiang’s decision on whether the California Legislators who passed a questionably balanced budget last week (soon vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown) will be paid. The per diem pay which the members of the California Assembly and State Senate receive while in session is paid weekly and Chiang has withheld last week’s paycheck pending his determination as to whether the “balanced” budget complied with California Proposition 25 passed by voters last November.

In the meantime, the California Legislature is in session and have floor sessions scheduled for noon today. Various legislative committees are also meeting. The California Assembly website is here and the State Senate is here.

The California Legislative Portal is located here.

On to the links:

A ‘humble man’ from Santa Paula in the center of state’s redistricting storm

Reformers in California had been trying since 1926 to empower an independent commission, rather than the Legislature, to draw political district lines. So it was an historic day on June 10 when the first such commission held a news conference to unveil the state’s first proposed maps drawn without the stench of a smoke-filled room or the taint of partisan deal-making.

To the microphone in a room at the State Capitol stepped chairman-for-the-day Gabino Aguirre, a Mexican immigrant, one-time migrant farmworker and retired high school principal.

The questions came fast from an assemblage that included a dozen or so reporters and a bank of television cameras. One, posed by a reporter from Antioch, was confrontational: How could the commission have so botched the proposed lines to divide communities in the hills of the East San Francisco Bay?

Aguirre, unperturbed, answered philosophically.

“I’ve mentioned to people that Santa Paula is the center of the universe,” Aguirre said of the town in which he lives and once served as mayor. “If I go to a commission and say, ‘We are the center of the universe,’ that is great. But the work of the commission is to draw the state into districts with large chunks of population. It may not be possible to give each community everything it wants.”

The confrontation defused, Aguirre moved on.

For the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, many more such confrontations lie ahead. It is in the midst of a rigorous two-week period during which it is conducting 11 hearings around the state to receive public feedback on its proposed maps, a tour that will include a stop Wednesday evening at the Oxnard College Performing Arts Center.

The commission will consider public input, issue revised maps on July 12 and then enter a final stage of internal review before submitting final maps to the secretary of state on Aug. 15.

Bera Stays in Congressional Race

Dr. Ami Bera, an Elk Grove resident who lost the Congressional District 3 race last November to Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River), said June 17 he is seeking a rematch against Lungren in November 2012.

“We are firmly committed to running against Dan Lungren,” Bera said.

These comments come a week after the California Citizens Redistricting Commission unveiled the first draft of their proposed Congressional district maps for California.

Under the current proposal, Lungren would no longer represent Elk Grove and would instead have his district cover eastern Sacramento County.

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) would have her district expand over Elk Grove.

If the proposed maps were finalized, Bera would have to move out of Elk Grove to Lungren’s new district area to challenge him.

Death penalty costs California $184 million a year, study says

A senior judge and law professor examine rising costs of the program. Without major reforms, they conclude, capital punishment will continue to exist mostly in theory while exacting an untenable cost.

Taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment in California since it was reinstated in 1978, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out since then, according to a comprehensive analysis of the death penalty’s costs.

The examination of state, federal and local expenditures for capital cases, conducted over three years by a senior federal judge and a law professor, estimated that the additional costs of capital trials, enhanced security on death row and legal representation for the condemned adds $184 million to the budget each year.

The study’s authors, U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell, also forecast that the tab for maintaining the death penalty will climb to $9 billion by 2030, when San Quentin’s death row will have swollen to well over 1,000.

In their research for “Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle,” Alarcon and Mitchell obtained California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records that were unavailable to others who have sought to calculate a cost-benefit analysis of capital punishment.

Villaraigosa: Stop wars, give cities more money

In his first appearance on “Meet the Press” in his role as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presented his argument Sunday for an increase of federal funding to cities.

And, part of that, he said, is ending the wars in the Mideast to make more money available to cities.

“I think the term was used that (it) is like they are on another planet,” Villaraigosa said when asked about the Republican presidential debate.

“The fact is, Americans are out of work. Too many people are not able to get back in the workplace and not enough is being done to train them for new work.

“We are asking that we need to focus on home again, and the issue is front and center in the cities.”

Villaraigosa said because of the costs of war, Congress has taken money away from the biggest needs in the cities _ transportation, housing and education.

It is in the cities, he said, where the basic services are provided and where help is needed, Villaraigosa said.

“We are the ones who are delivering the services, and we find the debate among Republicans as being out of touch with everyday people,” Villaraigosa said.

Villaraigosa took over as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this past weekend and he is making his inaugural speech today, where he is expected to call for the mayors to take a more active role in lobbying Congress to deal with urban issues.

Enjoy your morning!

Barack Obama

Arizona Sidesteps Obama Justice Department Over Sodium Thiopental and Executes Murderer

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Donald Edward Beaty

Despite the Obama Administration’s best efforts to prevent it, Arizona last night executed Donald Edward Beaty.
Donald Edward Beaty, 56, died at 7:38 p.m. local time at a state prison in Florence, Arizona, officials said, in an execution delayed for more than nine hours by a legal dispute over one of the drugs used to kill him.

Beaty, convicted of killing newspaper carrier Christy Ann Fornoff, had won a temporary stay from the Arizona Supreme Court after his lawyers objected to the last-minute substitution of a drug to be used in the lethal-injection mix.

But the court lifted the stay after conducting a special hearing on Wednesday morning, rejecting arguments that the state breached Beaty’s constitutional due process rights and protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Petitions to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court were unsuccessful.

So, a lesson to the other states, including California – use pentobarbital rather than sodium thiopental and executions can continue.

I still don’t think there will be any executions in California within the near future. anti-death penalty activists will come up with another excuse and litigate it.


Obama Justice Department Tells Arizona it Illegally Obtained Sodium Thiopental for Executions

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Of course, the Obama Department of Justice did this to stop a legal execution at the last minute in Arizona, but Arizona switched drugs.
Hours before the scheduled execution of an Arizona death row inmate, the Department of Justice informed the state that it should not use a controversial drug as part of the execution protocol because the state had illegally obtained the drug from a foreign source.

The last-minute move stunned lawyers for convicted murderer Donald Beaty who had argued for months that Arizona hadn’t been in compliance with federal law regarding the importation of sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs commonly used for lethal injection executions . The drug is no longer manufactured in the U.S.

The Arizona Supreme Court delayed Beaty’s scheduled execution by several hours and Beaty is now set to die at 7:30pm MST.

Arizona had consistently argued that it had properly obtained the drug.

In a filing with the Arizona’s Supreme Court the state’s Attorney General said that it in order to “avoid questions about the legality ” of the drug it had decided to comply with the request from United States Associate Deputy Attorney General Deborah A. Johnston.

In the filing it said it planned to substitute another fast-acting barbiturate pentobarbital for the sodium thiopental. Arizona law allows it to change its protocol without hearings and legislative review required by some other states.

Just another attempt by the anti-death penalty crowd to stop executions. But, some states have changed their drug cocktails avoiding sodium thiopental which is no longer manufactured in the United States,

However despite the Obama DOJ involvement, the Arizona Supreme Court lifted its stay of the execution of Donald Beaty this afternoon, but it is unclear when the eecution will take place.

Arizona switched the sedative in the three-drug “cocktail” it planned to administer to Beaty from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital on Tuesday after federal officials said the state failed to fill out a required form to bring the substitute drug into the country.

Sodium thiopental, which renders the prisoner unconscious, has been at the center of a debate over appropriate execution drugs. Supplies have become scarce in the United States, and efforts to buy stocks overseas have stirred controversy and been turned down flat by some manufacturers.

Beaty, 56, an apartment complex custodian, was convicted of snatching Christy Ann Fornoff from her newspaper route in Tempe, Arizona, in May 1984. He sexually assaulted her, then suffocated her in what was then one of the state’s more sensational criminal cases.

Court records said he kept the body inside his apartment for two days. She was later found wrapped in a sheet behind a dumpster there.

A jury deadlocked in Beaty’s first trial. He was convicted of murder and sexual assault when a psychologist testified that he confessed to the killing in a group therapy session.

In last-ditch appeals, Beaty’s lawyers unsuccessfully maintained his life should be spared because he did not have effective legal representation.

He would be the second inmate executed in Arizona this year, and the 26th since the death penalty was reinstated in there 1992.

Eighteen people have been executed in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.


Obama Administration Watches as States Scramble for Sodium Thiopental

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The old San Quentin Prison Gas Chamber

Here is another story about the Obama Administration and their involvement in states desperately seeking to acquire sodium thiopental in order to comply with state court execution orders.
The highest levels of the United States government were initially unsure how to respond last year when California and other states began a worldwide scramble for a scarce lethal injection drug, e-mails between federal officials show.

Ten states went abroad to purchase sodium thiopental, an anesthetic and part of the three-drug cocktail frequently used for executions, Drug Enforcement Administration records show. California was one of eight that made their transaction with Dream Pharma Ltd., a one-man London drug wholesaler operating from the back of a driving school.

In November, as states filed paperwork to import the anesthetic, e-mails between officials at the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration, and Customs and Border Protection document the federal agencies fretted [PDF] over how to respond.

“The White House is involved and trying to sort things out,” wrote a DEA official to unknown recipients in a Nov. 11 e-mail.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California obtained the records last week through a Freedom of Information Act request. The organization has filed numerous records requests with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and various federal agencies.

Records released to the ACLU have served as the primary source of information about states’ frantic international search for sodium thiopental as domestic supplies of the drug expired or ran out.

Last week, the DEA released 90 pages of internal correspondence to the ACLU. Fifteen of those pages were completely redacted, along with the names of a majority of officials sending and receiving notes.

What remains of the exchanges casts the federal government as worried about the drugs states were brining home for executions.

Read the entire piece.

As I have written before
, the federal government and anti-death penalty California POLS are obstructing the use of sodium thiopental for use in executions.

The fact is switching to other drugs will only lead to a circular argument method of obstructing enforcement of the death penalty. Then, there will be the physicians who will need to administer the drugs and the ethics involved with that.

So, just go back to the old gas chamber like the one above, which does not require a physician to administer the drugs or you could hang the convicted criminals.

Those methods are good enough and much more humane than these felons deserve anyway.

How long do you think it would take California to change the law with Jerry Brown as Governor and Kamala Harris as California Attorney General?

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, thinks one way to impede stall-inducing litigation would be to reinstitute the gas chamber, but use nontoxic gas to replace oxygen. “It gets rid of this whole notion of a quasi-medical procedure,” he explained, when execution is in reality “a punishment” for horrific crimes.

Of course, first Sacramento would have to pass a law. Then there’d be administrative law reviews. Add another decade.

Don’t look for any California executions anytime soon.