Hearing on lethal injection protocol begins
By Jason Bennert, Bay City News Service
September 25, 2006
SAN JOSE (BCN) - The federal judge who earlier this year
effectively halted the death penalty in California began a historic
hearing this morning in which the future of California's lethal
injection procedure is at stake.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel began the hearing by noting
the wide public interest in the hearing. He reminded the courtroom
audience that he would not be ruling of the legality of the death
penalty itself but only on California's method of execution.
"The issue is a very narrow one - whether the protocol for
lethal injections that has been proposed by the state meets constitutional
standards," Fogel said.
In a brief opening statement, John Grele, the attorney for condemned
killer Michael Morales, said California's proposed lethal injection
procedure was "both disturbing and frightening" and
"a story of unnecessary risk."
State officials did not consult with physicians or experts about
the drugs used in lethal injections when they created the proposed
procedure, according to Grele.
"They spent an hour-and-a-half with lawyers" to create
the procedure, Grele said.
California Senior Assistant Attorney General Dane Gillette said
in his opening statement that "lethal injection is not a
medical procedure. It is a lawful method of execution."
"The new protocol will, we submit, render the inmate unconscious
and he will remain unconscious," throughout the execution,
Morales was just hours away from being strapped onto the gurney
in San Quentin's execution chamber in February when Fogel effectively
halted the execution by ordering the state to have a "qualified
individual" licensed by the state to administer drugs intravenously
be present in the execution chamber during the execution and participate
in the lethal injection procedure. Every "qualified individual"
prison officials approached, all physicians, refused to participate
in the execution on ethical grounds.
Since February the state has developed a new lethal injection
procedure. Following this week's hearing, scheduled to last through
Friday, Fogel will rule on whether or not the new procedure is
constitutionally permissible or if it meets the definition of
"cruel and unusual punishment" and is unconstitutional.
Morales is on death row for the 1981 rape and murder of Terri
Winchell, a 17-year-old girl from Lodi.
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