Now that the US Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the use of lethal injections as a form of capital punishment, the state of California is chomping at the bit to off some of its more undesirable residents.
California hasn’t killed anyone since January 2006 when it sent 76-year-old triple murderer Clarence Allen down the River Styx. He was the oldest inmate on death row at the time and had his sentence delayed for health and age reasons. I guess they need to be good and healthy to die. There is, however, another hurdle to clear before the killings can continue.
U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose had ordered a temporary halt to executions in California after finding the state’s lethal injection procedures were unconstitutional. A decision by Fogel on whether a new execution protocol by the state meets constitutional requirements is pending.
A hearing in the case has been set for June, but [Chief Assistant Attorney General Dane] Gillette said it may be moved up as a result of today’s high court ruling. The state plans to ask Fogel to lift his court order and permit executions to resume.
Even if Fogel rules quickly for the state, another legal challenge pending in a California appellate court will prevent the state from executing inmates immediately. Gillette said the state would press for a quick resolution in that case, which was unaffected by the Supreme Court decision.
Once the executions resume, they’ll be housed in fancy new digs.
State officials last year began building a larger, better illuminated death chamber designed for lethal injection executions. Gillette said construction has been completed.
The old facility, built in 1937 as the state’s gas chamber, was criticized as dimly lit and crowded, relegating executioners outside the death room and making it difficult for them to properly monitor possible problems with the intravenous drug injections.
The new chamber cost $399,000 to build, which meant it didn’t need legislative approval. Gillette said it’s “certainly feasible” for executions to resume by the end of the year, at a clip of one lethal injection per month.