CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, October 2, 2006

California's Death Penalty Tactics Could be Cruel and Unusual Punishment

From Thousands of pages of depositions and four days of testimony last week in a federal courtroom here provided the most intimate portrait yet of a California's lethal injection methods.

Witnesses depicted executions by lethal injection — long considered a more humane alternative to the gas chamber or the electric chair — as almost haphazard events, and medical experts on both sides could not rule out the possibility that one or more inmates had been conscious and experienced an excruciating sensation of drowning or strangulation before death.

Describing the pressure executioners feel and the surreal atmosphere in which they work, one executioner explained: "There's no other place in the world that you're asked to start an IV for that purpose."

U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel, who presided over the trial here, is now reviewing the testimony and records to determine if the state can continue to perform lethal injection executions or if it should revise procedures to ensure the condemned don't suffer cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Constitution. The litigation was brought by Michael Morales, condemned for the 1981 murder of Terri Winchell, 17, a high school student from Lodi. 

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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