While the death penalty has not been used since 2006 in the state of California, it does not mean that, under certain circumstances, the sentence is not available to judges and juries. The facts surrounding state-sponsored execution include a number of realities of which many people may not be aware—despite the fact that the majority of the public favors capital punishment.
Death Row in California
For more than 700 inmates in the state of California, the death penalty hangs over their lives as a constant possibility. In recent decades the number of these prisoners has increased by 28%, indicating that it is still a preferred option for juries, despite the fact that executions have been held up in the current political and legal climate. Interestingly, more inmates on death row die of natural causes or from suicide than by execution in California, with only 15 of 135 death row deaths occurring as a result of execution since 1978.
“Volunteers” Give up on Appeals
There have been over 1,400 executions in the past 40 years in the United States. The majority of those individuals had given up on appealing their sentences. These inmates, known in the legal community as volunteers, simply quit fighting the system. One study of these individuals found that they tend to experience the same emotional journey as people who choose suicide outside of prison.
Lethal injection is the method of execution used in California. The process necessitates using a drug sequence that is supposed to result in a quick and painless death. The way it is supposed to occur is this: Unconsciousness occurs after the first drug, sodium thiopental, is administered; pancuronium, the second drug, paralyzes the involuntary muscles of the inmate; the third drug, potassium chloride, leads to cardiac arrest and death. Regrettably, that does not always occur as efficiently in practice as it does on paper.
Problems With Anesthesia
There have been cases across the country when inmates were inadequately anesthetized, leading to masked suffering, or conscious suffocation as their lungs shut down and the excruciating pain from the potassium chloride, which has been described as burning one’s veins en route to the heart. Medical personnel recognizes that there are some situations in which the administration of anesthesia is more likely to result in consciousness that looks like unconsciousness. Two of the factors increasing this likelihood are:
- When anesthesia is intravenously injected, as in executions;
- When the person being anesthetized has a record of substance abuse—a not uncommon circumstance among death row inmates.
Unacceptable for Animals
The risk of masked suffering with the use of pancuronium bromide is so grave that the drug has essentially been banned in most states as a method to euthanize animals. It seems that a protocol that has been deemed too cruel to use on cats and dogs in this country is wholly acceptable as a method to kill humans.
We Defend Human Beings
At The Law Offices of David M. Boertje, our criminal defense attorneys are focused on providing dynamic defense for clients because we believe that every human in this country deserves nothing less. To discuss your situation, contact our San Diego office today.