California corrections officials are asking regulators to approve a revised method to carry out the death penalty.
“The new regulations would allow California’s Death Row inmates at San Quentin State Prison to be executed using one of two different drugs or choose the gas chamber,” The Associated Press reports.
Prison officials will select either the powerful barbiturate pentobarbital or thiopental for each execution “depending on which one is available.” Opponents argue officials are trying to work around a nationwide shortage of these drugs because manufacturers are not making them readily available, according to the AP.
Correctional officials submitted the revised regulations to the state’s lawyers and are following the normal regulatory process until a California Supreme Court ruling intended to speed up executions becomes final.
The state high court upheld a voter approved measure to speed up the death penalty. Approval by state regulators for a one-drug method of execution would be the next step according to the AP.
All of the legal wrangling came about after Kent Scheidegger, director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, sued the state to pressure state officials to adopt new execution regulations.
Scheidegger acknowledged that it is a slow regulatory process, and the state is proceeding cautiously. “But I can’t say that being cautious is a bad thing, because they know they’re going to be sued. They always are,” he said.
The AP reported, “There may be other legal challenges to the final rules.”
However, executions still can’t resume until state and federal judges lift longstanding injunctions that applied to the state’s old execution methods, it was reported. Initially, the state proposed using one of four drugs but dropped two of them after opponents said those drugs had never been used in executions.
Many death penalty opponents questioned whether the new drugs would be safe and effective, the story revealed.
Opponents are already objecting to the new method. For instance, the new rules allow state officials to obtain dangerous drugs from compounding pharmacies, which do not face the same approval process for their products that large manufacturers face, the AP concluded.