California must find a way to execute condemned prisoners without using a controversial three-drug lethal injection procedure, a Sacramento judge has ruled.
Corrections officials cannot wait any longer to find a new way to conduct executions if they are reinstated, said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shellyanne Chang, as reported by The Associated Press.
A lawsuit filed by crime victims is asking that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation quickly adopt new procedures in which executions can be carried out. The procedure being sought is single drug (barbiturate only) system.
Chang did find that the CDCR does have the responsibility of finding a new system but made it clear that it also has sole discretion as to how the procedure will be carried out.
The AP reported that Gov. Jerry Brown said in April 2012 that the state would switch to a single-drug lethal injection. At present, California has not received a single drug lethal injection cocktail, the report said.
In response to the single-drug procedure, department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said, the department is reviewing the ruling. The ruling is not yet final. However, it will take effect if officials are unable to change Chang’s decision.
“This is an area that has been evolving in the law,
whether victims have any rights at all”
A victims’ rights organization is responsible for filing the suit on behalf of two family members of murder victims, citing that they are affected by the delays.
The argument is that eight other states are using a court-approved one-drug process for lethal injections and that California should align itself with those states.
The tentative ruling has been received as a victory for crime victims, according to Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
“This is an area that has been evolving in the law, whether victims have any rights at all,” he said.
This ruling answers that question in the affirmative. Victims do have rights when it comes to influencing state policies, he added.
What was not mentioned is that even if the ruling is adopted, there are still many barriers that could stop executions. For some time now, the length of time in which a Death Row inmate spends locked up and awaiting lethal injection, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney ruled in July 2014.
California is home to the largest Death Row population in the country. While state officials continue to fight for reinstatement of the lethal injections, no definitive information has been disseminated on the matter.
The report stated that Attorney General Kamala Harris is appealing the ruling.