Debate over resuming executions
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.