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California’s New Lethal Injection Procedure Thrown Out By Teresa Cajot California has not seen an execution in more than five years and it is unlikely that it will see one in 2012 either. On Friday, Marin County Superior Court Judge Faye D’Opal threw out the state’s newly developed lethal injection procedure, leaving corrections officials with the time-consuming options of either appealing the decision or altering the procedures again before opening them to public comment.

According to Judge D’Opal, prison officials failed to adequately support their reasons for selecting the three-drug lethal injection mixture over the single-drug execution process that other death-penalty states have adopted. She offered several other reasons for rejecting the new injection procedures, including the fact that the one drug-process, which involves the use of a barbiturate, was recommended by one of state’s own experts. She also noted that the department had received numerous comments from critics who stated that pancuronium bromide “is unnecessary, dangerous, and creates a risk of excruciating pain.” Pancuronium bromide, one of the drugs used in the three-drug lethal combination, is a painkiller and muscle relaxant that brings on paralysis. In her nine page decision, Judge D’Opal also wrote that the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation failed to provide a breakdown of execution related expenses and failed to provide its 720 death row inmates with the necessary information on the newly developed procedures. These latest procedures have been in the works since 2006 when a federal judge blocked the execution of convicted murderer Michael A. Morales on the grounds that the state’s lethal injection methods were flawed. All executions are on hold until the Morales case has reached a resolution, which is not expected to happen in the immediate future as the case is not expected to be heard until late in 2012.


As a result of the 2006 findings, corrections officials set out to revamp California’s execution process as a whole. In addition to developing new regulations, the corrections department also established a death chamber that is more conducive to the lethal injection process. However, in 2010, Michael Sims, a death row inmate of more than 20 years, filed a challenge against the revised procedures. He contends that the regulations developed in response Morale’s federal lawsuit, violate a California law that calls for both public comment and explanations for any changes. Sims, who was condemned for the 1985 murder of a 21-yearold Domino’s pizza employee, has worn out all of his appeals and is near the front of the execution line. He was also sentenced to lethal injection in South Carolina where he killed two other Domino’s Pizza employees. As it stands at the moment, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is undecided on the path it will take in response to Friday’s ruling, leaving California’s death row inmates with an uncertain future but knowledge that they won’t be walking into the death chamber immediately.

California's New Lethal Injection Procedure Thrown Out  
California's New Lethal Injection Procedure Thrown Out  

California has not seen an execution in more than five years and it is unlikely that it will see one in 2012 either.