The old San Quentin Prison Gas Chamber
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:
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.
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