The California First District Court of Appeals ruling in Sims v. CDCR is available in Adobe .pdf format.
ReutersLegal posts, "California appeals court upholds moratorium on executions," by Ronnie Cohen.
A California appeals court upheld a judge's ruling on Thursday prohibiting the state from executing condemned inmates until it adopts a new lethal-injection protocol, in the latest judicial move against capital punishment in the state.
California has 736 inmates on death row but has not executed anyone in seven years.
A federal judge imposed a moratorium on executions there in 2006, ruling that the most populous U.S. state's use of a lethal three-drug cocktail amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Since then, corrections officials have tried to fix deficiencies in the injection procedure, but a state trial court last year imposed its own separate moratorium on executions after deeming the process "a substantial failure."
Thursday's California 1st Appellate District ruling came in a challenge by condemned murderer Mitchell Sims, who sued in 2010 arguing that one of three drugs to be used for executions was unnecessary and would cause excruciating pain.
Sims' attorneys also alleged the state failed to follow procedures in formulating its latest combination of drugs to be used in the lethal cocktail.
Superior Court Judge Faye D'Opal of Marin County, the site of San Quentin State Prison's death row, last year ordered a moratorium on killing inmates by lethal injection until the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) enacted new regulations in compliance with state rules.
A three-judge appeals court panel upheld D'Opal's decision.
"Calif. appeals court rules state made several errors in adopting new lethal injection rules," is the AP coverage, via the Washington Post.
Executions in California will remain suspended after a state appeals court ruled that corrections officials made several “substantial” procedural errors when they adopted new lethal injection rules.
The 1st District Court of Appeals said the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation failed to explain, as required by state law, why it was switching from a three-drug injection method to a single drug.
The court’s opinion, which affirmed a lower court ruling, also said the agency misled the public by not providing the documents and information it used to reach its decision.
Corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in an email that the agency was reviewing the ruling.
“In the meantime, at the governor’s direction, CDCR is continuing to develop proposed regulations for a single-drug protocol in order to ensure that California’s laws on capital punishment are upheld,” Hoffman said.
The Los Angeles Times report is, "Appeals court deals California another setback on executions," by Maura Dolan.
In a decision written by Justice J. Anthony Kline, a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a Marin County judge’s decision that the California prison officials failed to comply with public participation requirements when they last revised the state’s lethal injection procedures.
The appeals court said the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not fully inform the public of alternatives to the three-drug method of execution the department favored.
“A hearing is ‘on the merits’ and ‘meaningful’ only if the interested public has timely received all available information that is relevant to the proposed regulations, accurate, and as complete as reasonably possible,” Kline wrote.
Corrections officials never explained why they favored continuing the state’s three-drug lethal injection or their reasons for rejecting other methods, the court said.
That failure was particularly significant because many commentators had complained that one of the three drugs the state has used -- pancuronium bromide -- could both create and mask excruciating pain by paralyzing inmates during executions, the court noted. The state’s own expert also had recommended a single-drug execution method.
Corrections officials told the court that they had responded to 29,416 correspondences from the public, posted notices of its proposal in all California prisons and held a lengthy hearing in which 102 people commented on the proposed lethal injection protocol.
But Kline said the state’s view of the purpose of the public participation law was “far too limited and simplistic.”
“Affected people cannot be thought to have been heard … simply because large numbers of interested people were provided an opportunity to be heard,” Kline wrote. “The public participation contemplated by the [law] is not a numbers game.”
"California's death penalty on hold again," by Howard Mintz for the Silicon Valley Mercury News.
Ensuring California's death penalty system remains in limbo for the foreseeable future, a state appeals court on Thursday scrapped the state's latest attempt to update its lethal injection procedures.
In a 28-page ruling, the 1st District Court of Appeal found that state prison officials failed to comply with administrative rules when crafting new regulations more than two years ago.
The unanimous decision of the three-justice panel sends California back to the drawing board, unless the Brown administration takes the case to the California Supreme Court and keeps more than 700 Death Row inmates on an indefinite reprieve.
"State court rejects new execution rules," by Henry K. Lee for the San Francisco Chronicle.
The ruling bolsters a freeze that state and federal courts have imposed on executions in California since the last one took place in January 2006.
Later that year, a federal judge ruled that the executions, carried out by poorly trained staff in a dimly lit chamber, posed an undue risk of a prolonged and agonizing death in violation of constitutional standards.
If state officials are able to eventually pass valid regulations, they still must convince a federal judge that the new rules eliminate the risk of cruel and unusual punishment.
Earlier coverage of California lethal injection issues begins with oral arguments before the appeals court. Also available is coverage of California legislation.
Related posts are in the lethal injection category index.