Officials in the California system who have authored a bid for new rules on execution, including using a different method than most states in the U.S., have evidently not bothered to “do their homework” when it comes to state laws on the subject. The need for a change in the system and methods of execution is simply unnecessary and, for many citizens, unreasonable. There is, to be sure, a long and hotly debated history of capital punishment in the state of California.
Before the 1972 case, People v. Anderson, there were 709 executions carried out in California, beginning in 1778 when San Diego County officials shot several Native Americans charged with conspiracy to commit murder. People v. Anderson caused the death penalty to be revoked in the state, until it was reinstated in 1978. Yet, since 2006, there has been a moratorium on executions in California due to a decision made by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who found so many problems with the state’s methods when executing prisoners that he stopped the process entirely.
Now, California prison officials are attempting to return to the era of capital punishment – with one serious problem that the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco cannot allow. What is that issue? They have completely altered and re-written the state’s execution rules to include, not one injection of lethal substances, but three: an anesthetic, a paralytic, and potassium chloride (which causes an electrolyte imbalance and thus causes the heart to stop). Most states use a large dose of one medication – a strong barbiturate that prevents pain and prevents the possibility of a prisoner becoming conscious during the process.
Whatever your thoughts may be on capital punishment in general, it is certain that most Californians would agree with the new ruling that prevents “cruel and unusual punishment” as suggested by the recent changes submitted to the court by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It makes sense for the First District Court of Appeal to reject these changes because they are, in fact, unreasonable and simply unlawful. The authors should have done a little more research before submitting this re-written document – and it is frightening that the very Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation representatives are so unaware of the laws in the state to which they are duty-bound.