California moved a step closer to resuming executions when corrections officials announced new lethal injection procedures, beating a May 1 deadline by one day, reports the Los Angeles Times. The proposed changes in the death chamber procedures, though mostly minor, are intended to address concerns expressed by a federal judge in 2006 that the state’s earlier three-drug sequence may have exposed some of those who were executed to unconstitutionally “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Executions are unlikely to resume soon because federal and state judges must first review the changes and decide whether they address the constitutional questions and procedural complaints brought by death penalty opponents. Those reviews are likely to extend at least through the end of the year, and other pending legal challenges could keep the current moratorium in effect for months or years. The details of the execution procedures cover 42 pages and mostly deal with specific procedural questions, including who can serve on the execution team, where witnesses can be located and how to deal with potential mishaps during the process. California has 702 inmates on death row. Despite having the nation’s largest population of condemned prisoners, there has not been an execution in the state since convicted killer Clarence Allen was put to death in January 2006.