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.
Terri Lynn Winchell
The Death Penalty Archive
Well, for now – or should I say until Monday afternoon, California executions as per state and federal law can proceed.
A federal judge in San Jose gave the go-ahead today for next week’s scheduled execution of a convicted murderer from Riverside County, which would be the state’s first execution in nearly five years.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who blocked lethal injections at San Quentin State Prison in February 2006 because of haphazard procedures, untrained staff and the potential of inflicting excruciating pain, said revised state regulations and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling had removed constitutional obstacles to renewed executions.
Fogel acknowledged that he has not yet reviewed the state’s amended procedures to determine whether they still pose a risk of violating the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
But he said the condemned inmate, Albert Greenwood Brown, could avert that risk by choosing to be executed with a single drug – a heavy dose of the sedative sodium pentothal – rather than the three-drug combination California has used in past executions.
The potential for excruciating pain comes from the second and third drugs, paralytic and heart-stopping chemicals, if the sedative fails to work properly. Fogel noted that Ohio and Washington state have used one-drug executions on nine prisoners in the last year without reported difficulties.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that Kentucky’s lethal injection procedures, using the same chemicals as California and most other states, met constitutional standards. The court said a prisoner would have to present a “demonstrated risk of severe pain” to challenge an execution with those drugs.
Brown is scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Fogel said he would issue a stay if Brown chose a one-drug execution and the state refused to use that method. He gave Brown until 6 p.m. Saturday to make that choice.
State lawyers spelled out procedures for a possible one-drug execution in a court filing earlier his week but said they were not conceding that the procedure would comply with state law.
So, the people of California spend almost a $ 1 million (more than $800,000) for a new death chamber and countless employee hours for new procedures and retraining so the inmate has a choice of a one drug cocktail or the old standard method?
Doesn’t anyone see this is a charade by Judge Fogel?
Judge Fogel obviously does NOT support the death penalty as a matter of personal conscience or whatever and has used every opportunity to throw up roadblocks. Interesting, that the Judge is so disinterested that he has not even toured the new facility or read the training manual. I would consider this judicial misfeasance if not out right neglect.
Anyway, Albert Greenwood Brown has until tomorrow night to decide if he wants a one drug execution or the three drug execution. If he chooses one drug and the State of California balks (says they are not ready to comply) then a stay is immediately granted. However, Judge Fogel’s order states that if Brown chooses one drug then he would have to waive his rights under state law which is the subject of a Marin County lawsuit which is pending.
Then, on Monday, a Marin County State of California judge will be asked to halt the execution while a lawsuit challenging the new lethal injection regulations is pending. Of course. Judge Fogel’s ruling today can be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
I still would not hold my breath that there will be any California executions next week or anytime soon.