California lethal injection hearing concludes
Fogel to issue ruling in November
Photo courtesy Death
Penalty Information Center
By Jason Bennert, Bay City News Service
September 29, 2006
SAN JOSE (BCN) - The federal judge who effectively halted
executions in California early this year today promised to issue
a decision in early November as to whether or not the state's
modified lethal injection procedure is constitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel heard three-and-a-half
days of testimony this week about California's three-drug lethal
injection procedure. The attorneys for the state and for condemned
inmate Michael Morales will have to submit further written arguments
before Fogel issues his decision.
"I'm determined to get a decision out as soon after November
1st as possible,'' Fogel said.
As he did at the start of the hearing, Fogel cautioned the public
that his decision would only cover the constitutionality of California's
specific procedure and not broader questions about lethal injection
or capital punishment.
"There are a lot of issues that swirl around this case -
how people feel about the death penalty, the rights of victims,
victims' families - all of which are very important, but the court
has a very specific job to do,'' Fogel said.
The attorneys for Morales have challenged the procedure, claiming
that as an example of "cruel and unusual punishment'' it
is unconstitutional because of the possibility that the condemned
inmate would feel excruciating pain from the drugs used in the
In the proposed procedure sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, would
first be injected into the inmate intravenously to render the
inmate unconscious. A second drug, pancuronium bromide, which
paralyzes the muscles, would then be injected followed by the
final drug potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
Attending today's hearing was celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred,
who represents the mother of Terri Winchell, the 17-year-old Lodi
girl Morales raped and murdered in 1981. Allred said it is important
to remember the crimes Morales committed that put him on death
"The murderer did not care for his victim, a teenager, as
she suffered,'' Allred said. "He intentionally inflicted
unspeakable pain as he hammered her skull 23 times with a claw
Winchell's mother, Barbara Christian, was upset by the amount
of time devoted to whether or not Morales would feel excruciating
pain during the lethal injection procedure.
"I am very angry that they are concerned that for five to
seven minutes he might be aware,'' Christian said.
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