California continued to buck a nationwide trend away from costly and litigious death sentences in 2010, adding 28 new prisoners to the nation’s most populous death row, reports the Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles County alone condemned eight defendants to death this year, the same number as Texas, and Riverside County sent six men to await execution.
The state’s death chamber was idle for a fifth year, because of protracted legal challenges of lethal injection practices and a nationwide shortage of the key drug used in the three-injection procedure. Whether executions will resume in 2011 could be decided soon, when a federal judge is expected to decide if the state’s newly revised lethal injection procedures conform with a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. With 717 condemned inmates on California’s death row, the legal tug-of-war over capital punishment is expected to intensify, with incoming Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris personally opposing executions on moral grounds. Both politicians have said they will uphold death sentences in their new jobs.