Today's Los Angeles Times reports, "Brown orders consideration of single-drug execution method." It's by Maura Dolan.
Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered prison officials to consider a single-drug method of executing condemned inmates as the state appeals a court order that has blocked California from carrying out the death penalty.
Mention of the directive came in a notice of appeal filed Thursday by Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris seeking to counter a February ruling that halted a revised three-drug lethal injection method. The filing came just three days after certification of a November ballot measure that would offer voters the chance to repeal California's death penalty.
The legal filing said the state would reevaluate its position in favor of the three-drug method if "the drugs needed to implement the protocol have, in fact, become unavailable." The U.S. maker of one of the drugs has stopped manufacturing it.
"In the meantime, under the governor's direction, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will also begin the process of considering alternative regulatory protocols, including a one-drug protocol, for carrying out the death penalty," the filing said.
A conservative law and order group sued the state last week to force it to implement a single-drug method of execution, a procedure used in nearly two dozen executions in other states.
A federal judge in 2006 halted executions in California after finding that inmates might experience excruciating pain under the state's three-drug procedure. California then revised its three-drug protocol, but a Marin County judge ruled in February that the state should have considered a single-drug method.
The governor's order was disclosed in an appeal of a Marin County judge's decision to toss out California's newly developed lethal injection regulations.
The new procedures called for prisoners to be put to death through the use of sodium thiopental, which may no longer be available in the United States, and two other drugs.
A federal judge in March barred the use of sodium thiopental purchased outside the country. There is no domestic maker of the product, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been ordered to turn over its foreign-bought drug to the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA is considering whether to appeal the judge's order.
Lawyers for the state Department of Justice said Thursday they would reconsider the appeal if it becomes certain that sodium thiopental can no longer be used in California executions.
Marin County Judge Faye D'Opal in December invalidated the regulations because she said the state failed to explain why it chose the three-drug mixture over the one-drug method, which may have a lower risk of causing undo suffering to the inmate. The judge noted that the state's own expert said the one-drug method was superior.
The appeal says the state still supports the three-drug protocol, but that the governor had directed officials to explore the one-drug option.
"My administration is working to ensure that California's laws on capital punishment are upheld and carried out in conformity with our statutes," Brown said in a prepared statement Thursday.
A federal judge halted executions in 2006 and ordered prison officials to improve their lethal injection procedures or he was going to find California's lethal injection process caused unconstitutional suffering. Since then, the state has constructed a new death chamber at San Quentin Prison, developed new regulations and trained a new team to carry out executions.
U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg has scheduled a hearing on the federal case Sept. 15, making it clear that no executions will take place in California this year.
Earlier coverage of California lethal injection issues begins at the link.