Ruling Expected Soon on Lethal Injection Controversy
Federal District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel is expected to rule soon on a challenge to the lethal injection process in California, the state with the largest death row in the country. Extensive hearings with national experts were conducted earlier in the year and some testimony raised serious concerns about the supervision and reliability of the execution process. Final responses to Judge Fogel's supplementary questions after the close of the hearings were due on November 9. Among the issues that the judge requested additional briefing on were:
- What steps should the state take to monitor inmates’ levels of unconsciousness prior to and following injection of the drugs presently used in California?
- Would the reliability of the protocol be improved by the use of a BIS monitor or an EEG?
- Is the involvement of medical professionals necessary, and if so, what type(s) of medical professionals should be involved in what ways?
- What would be the advantages and disadvantages of eliminating pancuronium bromide (the second drug that paralyzes the inmate's muscles, thereby masking possible evidence of pain) from the protocol?
- What would be the advantages and disadvantages of an execution protocol that achieves its purpose by using one or more sedatives, such as sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, with or without a narcotic, and eliminates the other two drugs that currently are used?
(See Morales v. Tilton, Request for Briefing, U.S. Dist. Ct. for N. Dist. of CA, Oct. 3, 2006).
The civil rights challenge to the lethal injection process was brought by Michael Morales, whose execution in February was halted at the 11th hour when doctors engaged by the state refused to participate in the process. Morales has claimed that California's present process risks excruciating and unnecessary pain, and is thus a violation of the ban on cruel and unusual punishments. Individual executions have also been stayed in Maryland, Missouri, South Dakota, New Jersey, Delaware and Arkansas because of challenges to lethal injection.
(DPIC, posted Nov. 13, 2006). See DPIC's Lethal Injection. See also DPIC's Press Release; and Boalt School of Law's Legal Resources on Lethal Injection.