Skip to comments.As Sacramento Dawdles, District Attorneys Revolt
Posted on 07/29/2012 6:11:32 AM PDT by Kaslin
California's death penalty has been in limbo since 2006, when a federal judge stayed the execution of Michael Morales, who was sentenced to death for the brutal 1981 murder and rape of 17-year-old Terri Winchell. The judge was fearful lest the state's three-drug lethal injection protocol would cause Morales undue pain. Since then, a number of states have switched to a one-drug protocol. Why hasn't California? The answer could be that Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris don't want the death penalty to work.
Brown and Harris are personally opposed to the death penalty, but when they campaigned for office in 2010, both pledged to carry out the law. They're not exactly knocking themselves out to do so.
In 2009, Ohio adopted a one-drug protocol for executions. By administering a lethal dose of barbiturates, Ohio made it harder for frivolous appeals to keep the state from enforcing its laws. Several states followed suit, including Washington. Washington is important because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit refused to stay a single-drug execution there in 2010.
California officials still are sticking with a three-drug protocol mired in legal challenges. Sacramento has been so ineffective that Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to make the state order the single-drug executions of multiple murderers Tiequon Cox and Mitchell Sims.
LA County Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee told me that Cooley acted because other states have been "rapidly moving forward with executions while our Department of Corrections sits on its hands and does nothing."
Believe it or not, a California deputy attorney general actually showed up in court to fight Cooley's effort -- in the name of Brown's Department of Corrections. The California Department of Justice argued that Cooley's gambit, if successful, would put Corrections in an "impossible position" because of Marin Superior Court Judge Faye D'Opal's injunction against executions pending new regulations. Hanisee counters that D'Opal doesn't have the authority to stop all executions. Besides, D'Opal faulted the state's rejection of a one-drug protocol.
"The murderer and the state's chief law enforcement officer were both on the same side," observed a disgusted Michael Rushford, president of the tough-on-crime Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
When I asked Corrections for an explanation, a spokeswoman sent me a legal brief, signed by Harris, which said: "The state has expended significant time and resources developing a three-drug lethal injection protocol for carrying out the death penalty, and this protocol conforms to a procedure that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court."
Translation: Unlike Washington state, California is sticking with the method least likely to carry out the law.
In a later brief, Harris wrote that under Brown's guidance, Corrections "has begun the process of considering alternative regulatory protocols, including a one-drug protocol, for carrying out the death penalty."
San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe apparently doesn't see a reason to wait. He also has asked a superior court to order a single-drug execution, of convicted killer Robert Fairbank. "At present," the San Mateo brief argues, "the laws of this state are not being enforced by the agency designated to do so."
Because death penalty opponents have been able to use their clout to choke supply, California's supply of the lethal injection pharmaceutical is set to expire in 2014, and the state cannot get any more. Still, the state has stood by the tied-up-in-court three-drug protocol.
Death penalty foes have succeeded in placing a measure on the November ballot to repeal California's death penalty. As it is now, the more than 720 inmates on California's death row are likelier to die from natural causes or suicide than they are from lethal injection. Advocates then can point to the de facto death penalty moratorium and argue that capital punishment is an expensive failure.
Their spokesmen can point to gestures Brown and Harris have made to uphold the law, but Rushford believes that the governor and attorney general are deliberately failing to carry out California's death penalty law. Brown "doesn't want to enforce the death penalty," Rushford said. "That's what I believe, and everything he's done proves it."
Am I the only citizen outraged by the ever increasing Democrat politicians (up to the President of the United States) who have decided that they have the power to enforce only the laws that they agree with and disregard the rest?
I’ve heard carbon monoxide poisoning is painless. So should be a bullet to the back of the head. In either case anesthetize the killer first if you’re going to get weepy over the thought of the killer being traumatized.
“The judge was fearful lest the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol would cause Morales undue pain.”
One wonders if this judge would have feared the undue pain that an unborn infant would suffer by the forcible and violent insertion of an instrument into its brain during an abortion procedure.
There is no problem with a lethal supply of drugs in California. The place is afloat with Heroin.
Leave the occupants of death row a needle and some heroin in their cells for a week —then slip them a hot shot, and they will kill themselves with it.
Not to mention the fear and pain the victims experienced prior to death.
They should simply go to an overdose of heroin. People take that drug voluntarily and go back for more, even to the point that they die. That is proof that death by heroin is not cruel.
Certainly so in CA. There's people there on death row waiting since Carter was president. That's not justice, and soon it'll argued such a fantastic delay is itself cruel and unusual punishment.
There must be a way to stop this unlawful circumvention of the law but I don't see how. All it takes is the whim of a politician or judge who don't agree with the policy to see it's never enforced.
We're now at 60 years to clear death row is none are added and one execution takes place every year. This is an absurdity.
I wonder what will happen if voters refuse to overturn the death penalty in November? More of the same by pro-criminal activists I'm sure.
Lawyers on the dole.
A death penalty debate in California is not really serious.
There have been 13 executions in the last 34 years.
There have been no executions in the last six and one half years.
Since new death penalty rules were installed in 1978, less than 2% of death row inmates have been executed.
The infamous Scott Peterson is probably the only guy on Death Row who has something to worry about since his execution would be politically popular.
In all fairness, the people of blue state California probably don’t want the death penalty either, even if 61% think they do. Thus they should just eliminate it from their statutes and save a lot of time and effort.
It’s a polling problem, because if you just ask them if they want the death penalty, they say “yes”. But if you go into any detail, about who, why, or how, they will say “no”.
Instead, the pollsters should ask them about specific means of executions: hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, or lethal injection (3 drugs or just 1 drug is the current debate). This is one area where Californians probably come up short.
If you ask people in Texas, Virginia or Oklahoma, they might even vie for hanging, if associated with promptness instead of the multi-year appeals delays that exist today.
typical liberals. they want to euthanize (kill) old people when they get sick, useless eaters as hitler described them. they cost too much in health care costs, so they cannot contribute to society.
yet they will rally against the death penalty and pay 50,000 plus a year to support the dregs of society.
hangings were legal at the time of the founding fathers, and was efficient, cheap and better yet, public. deterrent for would be killers and thieves.
tired of courts not bothering to consult history, which is an easy way to determine what the constitution actually means.
hang them publicly, or shoot them in a firing squad. people won’t even have to pay for the rope or bullets. there is plenty of people that would contribute to the cause, ‘specially those that have suffered loss due to these thugs.
that does not surprise me