Intentional Murders by Government. California has 749 prisoners in its death row population. Most are Black (269). There are 188 Latinos and 249 whites on death row. [MORE]
From [SFGate] California has not executed a prisoner since 2006, but a legal scholar who opposes the death penalty says a recent state ballot measure and U.S. Supreme Court rulings could doom as many as 20 inmates who have run out of appeals.
With the passage last year of Proposition 66, which eliminated regulatory review of the state’s new one-drug execution procedures, “I think there’s going to be a wave of executions,” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley Law School, said Tuesday in a meeting with The Chronicle’s editorial board.
Out of 746 condemned inmates in California — the largest Death Row in the country — at least 20 have lost all legal challenges and now are contesting only the state’s method of execution. Their case is before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg of San Francisco, who must decide whether the state’s procedures and proposed drugs, some of them untested in executions, pose an undue risk of a prolonged and agonizing death.
Another federal judge halted California executions in 2006, finding flaws in lethal injection procedures and staff training. The state has rewritten its rules several times since then, switching from a three-drug combination to a fatal dose of a single barbiturate after manufacturers withdrew other lethal drugs from the market, but has not yet won court approval.
State courts ordered prison officials to seek public input on their latest proposal, and thousands of comments arrived, most of them critical. But Prop. 66, approved by 51 percent of voters in November 2016, allows officials to ignore those objections and put the rules into effect. The state Supreme Court upheld that provision and most other sections of Prop. 66 in a ruling that became final last week.
Gov. Jerry Brown could commute some or all of the death sentences to life without parole. But Brown, who personally opposes capital punishment, promised during his 2014 re-election campaign that he would not issue any blanket commutations for Death Row inmates.
Seeborg has granted stays of execution for all the inmates with cases in his court, and prosecutors have not yet sought to set any execution dates. When they do, however, the judge will be governed by U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have given states considerable leeway in execution methods.
In particular, the court allowed Oklahoma in 2015 to use a drug that had appeared to cause prolonged suffering at a previous execution. Justice Samuel Alito, in the 5-4 ruling, said inmates had no right to challenge a particular execution method unless they proposed a less-painful lethal procedure.
Based on that ruling, Chemerinsky said Tuesday, “it’s just a matter of time until challenges to methods of execution play themselves out.”
Asked about Chemerinsky’s prediction, attorney Aundré Herron, a board member at the anti-capital punishment group Death Penalty Focus in San Francisco, said she thought it was premature. [MORE]