Barring a dramatic twist, California will go through yet another year without any executions, says the San Jose Mercury News. In court papers yesterday, the Jerry Brown administration and lawyers for death row inmates agreed that the soonest they will finish preliminary legal skirmishing in the long-running challenge to the state’s lethal injection procedures will be September 2012 — a development that assures a federal judge is unlikely to resolve the case before the end of next year.
As a result, California’s de facto moratorium on executions, already nearing six full years, will stretch on in a state with more than 720 inmates on death row. The latest delay comes in a legal challenge to California’s lethal injection method, which death row inmates maintain poses an undue risk of a cruel and unusual execution. The case was first filed in 2006 by condemned killer Michael Morales, who was given a last-minute reprieve by former San Jose U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel. Fogel later found the state’s lethal injection procedures were flawed and potentially unconstitutional if not fixed by state officials, who several years later devised new methods and constructed a new death chamber at San Quentin. Those reforms are now being challenged, and San Francisco U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg has inherited the case from Fogel.