The State of California has not executed an individual since 2006, when its capital punishment procedures relating to lethal injections were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Morales v. Tilton, 465 F.Supp. 2d 972 (N.D. Cal 2006). California authorizes capital punishment by gas or lethal injection. The state will continue to hold off on executions for capital crimes.
Governor Issues Moratorium on Executions
Two weeks ago, the Governor of California announced the statewide suspension of death penalty executions, granting a temporary reprieve to the 737 inmates currently on death row. California voters have rejected two initiatives to repeal the death penalty — Proposition 62 in 2016 and Proposition 34 in 2012. Instead, they voted to accelerate the death row appeals process in 2016 with the passage of Proposition 66.
Lethal Injection Procedures Declared Unconstitutional in 2006
The Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, in the Morales case, found California’s death penalty procedures relating to lethal injections flawed. At issue was the drug recipe that was used for the lethal injections. The three-drug compound that made up the lethal injection dose could lead to suffering and an agonizing death if it was not administered carefully, resulting in a violation of the Eight Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s cruel and unusual punishment clause.
According to BBC reporting, the death penalty is legal in 30 states, including California. Since 1976, California has executed 13 death row inmates. 737 executions remain outstanding, representing the most number of prisoners on death row in the court. Overall 2,738 inmates are on death row nationwide.
As part of the settlement of the Morales case, the state was ordered to submit new procedures for execution by lethal injection. Theoretically, if the court approved the new procedures, executions could resume. The Governor rescinded the lethal injection protocol and closed the San Quentin execution chamber concurrent with his announcement. Continue reading