De­bate over re­sum­ing ex­e­cu­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Cal­i­for­ni­ans face a wa­ter­shed year as they pre­pare to de­cide whether to re­sume ex­e­cu­tions that stopped a decade ago or end them en­tirely.

While ad­vo­cates jockey to put both choices be­fore vot­ers this fall, of­fi­cials over­see­ing the 746 con­demned in­mates on the na­tion's largest death row are push­ing ahead with plans to use a sin­gle lethal drug to meet le­gal re­quire­ments amid a na­tion­wide short­age of ex­e­cu­tion drugs.

Sup­port­ers said at a pub­lic hear­ing on Fri­day that crime vic­tims have waited too long for jus­tice as the state dragged its heels in adopt­ing a new method of ex­e­cu­tion.

“The fam­ily mem­bers of the vic­tims are dy­ing be­fore the mur­der­ers,” said Michele Hanisee, vice-pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Deputy District At­tor­neys of Los An­ge­les County. “Mean­while, iron­i­cally, the state of Cal­i­for­nia moves ahead with an as­sisted sui­cide law that would al­low doc­tors to pre­scribe the same drugs for sui­cide that death penalty op­po­nents will call in­hu­mane when used for ex­e­cu­tions.”

Op­po­nents said at the hear­ing that the state risks botch­ing death sen­tences if it moves too quickly in mak­ing the change.

The Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Corrections and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion will con­sider nearly two-dozen com­ments from the hear­ing and writ­ten com­ments from about 12,000 peo­ple as it de­vel­ops its fi­nal reg­u­la­tions. Any changes would re­quire a new round of pub­lic com­ments.

The state is propos­ing to let corrections of­fi­cials choose from four types of pow­er­ful bar­bi­tu­rates to ex­e­cute pris­on­ers, de­pend­ing on which drug is avail­able. The sin­gle injection would re­place the se­ries of three drugs used in 2006 to ex­e­cute 76year-old Clarence Ray Allen for order­ing a triple mur­der.

Two of the four drugs have never be­fore been used in ex­e­cu­tions, and it's not clear whether the state has enough safe­guards in place to ob­tain safe, ef­fec­tive drugs, said Ana Zamora, crim­i­nal jus­tice pol­icy di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

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