Judge refuses Schwarzenegger request
for lethal injection secrecy
Photo courtesy Death
Penalty Information Center
By Jason Bennert, Bay City News Service
February 24, 2007
SAN JOSE (BCN) - A federal judge Friday refused to grant
a request by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office for a broad
order that could have shrouded in secrecy the process of developing
California's new lethal injection procedure.
The Schwarzenegger administration filed a motion last month seeking
to keep its formulation of a new lethal injection procedure confidential.
"The review of the lethal injection procedure will require
frank debate and candid consideration of policy alternatives,''
according to the motion.
This afternoon Fogel said it is important that the process of
creating a new procedure be as open to the public as possible.
"There is an abiding interest in the transparency of the
process,'' Fogel said. "There is an enormous public interest.''
State officials have to develop a new lethal injection procedure
after Fogel ruled in December that California's former procedure
was an unconstitutional because of the possibility that condemned
inmates would feel excruciating pain during the administration
of the lethal three-drug combination used in the procedure.
While Fogel made a plea for "transparency'' in the process
he did not issue an order that it be entirely open to the public.
Karl Olson, the attorney representing a number of the state's
major newspapers, said there is a good possibility that the Schwarzenegger
Administration will oppose media requests for public records relating
to the formulation of a new lethal injection procedure.
"It probably leaves to another day what are likely to be
some disagreements,'' Olson said.
"(The Schwarzenegger Administration) have basically said
we're going to roll out a final product and that's all we want
you to see.''
Fogel agreed with Olson that any disagreements over public records
requests would have to be decided in state court and not by him.
The governor's office has told Fogel that will propose a new
lethal injection procedure by May 15 for his approval.
Fogel ruled California's lethal injection procedure unconstitutional
after a challenge by attorneys for condemned killer Michael Morales.
Morales, 46, was sentenced to death in 1983 for the 1981 rape
and murder of Lodi teenager Terri Winchell. He was mere hours
away from execution in February 2006 when Fogel effectively halted
all executions in California because of concerns about the state's
lethal injection procedure. Since then a total of 11 states have
put a hold on lethal injection executions because of concerns
about the Constitutionality of the procedure.
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