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