Tuesday, November 13, 2012

After Failed Death Penalty Repeal, California Could See Spate of Executions

In the California county that houses the nation's largest death row, voters overwhelmingly endorsed an end to executions on Tuesday. But Proposition 34, which would have repealed the death penalty and replaced it with life without parole (LWOP), was rejected statewide by a 53–47 percent margin. The measure drew fire from sentencing reform advocates concerned with embracing LWOP, sometimes called “the other death penalty.” But now that Prop. 34 has failed, the Golden State could see a wave of executions. 

More than 700 prisoners await execution at San Quentin State Prison. But none have been carried out since 2006, when a federal judge ruled that the state's three-drug lethal injection procedure could put prisoners in agonizing pain if administered incorrectly. Though the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation began overhauling its procedures in response, the new protocols have remained in limbo in state courts.

But next week, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe will attempt to bypass the de facto moratorium by asking a judge to allow the execution of Robert Fairbank, who has exhausted his state and federal appeals, with a single lethal drug. Six states currently use such a procecure, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. If the judge grants this request, executions could proceed at an unprecented pace—California has 13 other inmates who have run out their appeals process. 

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