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Friday, December 15, 2006

Federal judge rules California lethal injection protocol 'intolerable' under constitution
Jeannie Shawl at 5:03 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge issued a memorandum of intended decision [PDF text] Friday, concluding that California's lethal injection procedure creates "an undue and unnecessary risk" of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment [text] of the US Constitution. The memorandum came in the case of condemned killer Michael Morales [NCADP profile], who argued that it was not certain that the chemical cocktail to be used in his lethal injection [JURIST news archive] would not prevent him from experiencing extreme pain during the process. Morales' execution was postponed indefinitely [JURIST report] in February after a court ruling that medical professionals must monitor executions by lethal injection to be sure that the inmate feels no pain. The ruling imposed a virtual moratorium on executions in California [JURIST report] as anesthesiologists refused to take part [JURIST report] in the execution.

In his memorandum Friday, US District Judge Jeremy Fogel wrote that:

At the present time, ... Defendants' implementation of California's lethal-injection protocol lacks both reliability and transparency. In light of the substantial questions raised by the records of previous executions, Defendants' actions and failures to act have resulted in an undue and unnecessary risk of an Eighth Amendment violation. This is intolerable under the Constitution.
Fogel set a 30-day deadline for the state to determine whether the lethal injection protocol would be modified. The Los Angeles Times has more.

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