Moratorium On California Executions Upheld

The moratorium on California executions was upheld in court on Thursday by a California appeals court, prohibiting the state from executing condemned inmates until it comes up with a new lethal injection protocol.

The state currently has 736 inmates on death row, but has not performed any executions since 2006, because of the legal battle. Thursday’s court ruling was the latest in a series of moves against capital punishment in California.

Executions were first halted by a moratorium a judge imposed seven years ago. That judge ruled that the state’s use of a lethal three-drug cocktail was cruel and unusual punishment.

Corrections officials have worked since then to come up with a solution to the injection procedure’s problems. However, it imposed its own moratorium on executions in a state trial after they decided the process was “a substantial failure.”

Thursday’s court ruling was in response to condemned murderer Mitchell Simms, who sued the state of California in 2010, arguing that one of the three drugs used to kill inmates was not needed and would also cause excruciating pain. The state’s 1st Appellate District made the decision on Thursday.

Superior Court Judge Faye D’Opal of Marin County, where San Quentin State Prison’s death row is, ordered another moratorium on California executions until the California Department of Corrections enacts new regulations that comply with state rules.

D’Opal found that the state did not explore a sufficient amount of alternatives to the three-drug combination. They also didn’t explain why a single drug system wouldn’t be as effective. A three-judge panel upheld the ruling.

The current cocktail of drugs used in the state’s lethal injections contains sodium pentothal (anesthetic), mancuronium bromide (muscle paralyzer), and heart-stopping medication potassium chloride.

With the latest ruling on Thursday, state officials will have to decide if they will change the rules regarding lethal injections or if they will appeal the ruling to the California Supreme Court.

[Image via California Department of Corrections]