On December 16th, 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel declared that California's death penalty statute violates the Eighth Amendment, specifically citing concerns regarding the state's lethal injection protocols. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) took the judge's concerns to heart and decided to address them rather than appealing the ruling, effectively declaring a moratorium on executions in California.
What California Needs To Do:
Judge Fogel outlined several specific concerns with respect to California's lethal injection protocol:
- Although use of the gas chamber has been abolished, lethal injections still take place in the cramped green gas chamber at San Quentin (shown here).
- Execution teams have not received adequate training, and often do not know the function of the drugs they're administering. As a result, there is no way of knowing whether or not the victim (who is paralyzed after administration of the first drug, and therefore cannot communicate) is suffering.
What It Means:
In practical terms, this may not affect California's execution schedule. Despite having 655 prisoners on death row, California has only performed 13 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
According to a 2004 poll, 68% of California residents support the death penalty.
What Happens Next:
The State of California will attempt to establish new execution protocols to address concerns regarding the lethal injection system. It should be understood that this is a temporary moratorium; there is almost no chance that the death penalty will be permanently abolished in California within the near future.