A legal challenge to California’s lethal injection executions has been delayed until mid-September, making it likely there will be no more inmates put to death by the state for the remainder of this year and possibly longer, reports the Los Angeles Times. The delay, ordered yesterday by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose, means that Michael A. Morales, who originally was scheduled for execution in February for a 1981 murder, has at least several more months to live. The hearing on Morales’ challenge to lethal injection originally had been set for next month. Whichever way Fogel rules, an appeal is a virtual certainty, which makes it likely that there will no more executions until 2007 at the earliest, says University of California at Berkeley law professor Frank Zimring.
Morales and other inmates have challenged lethal injection for possibly causing excessive pain. Critics say the first drug in the three-stage lethal injection protocol, a sedative, often fails to anesthetize the inmate, especially in the hands of untrained prison personnel. A ranking official of the California attorney general’s office said the state is “seriously considering” the use of a machine that officials say could help monitor a condemned inmate’s level of consciousness during the execution procedure. The machine, a bispectral index monitor, was first used last week in North Carolina in an attempt to make sure a condemned man was thoroughly sedated before the lethal drugs were administered.