Court: Confused Rules May End California Executions

The death penalty is "lost in the legal weeds"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    The lethal injection chamber in an Ohio state prison. The newly-constructed chamber at San Quentin state prison, where California's death row is located, has been in limbo thanks to arcane legal questions.

    There are 734 people on Death Row in California -- but instead of sentenced to death, they're now condemned to wait while complex legal wrangling over the state's death penalty continues.

    A "highly technical issue" is currently at the heart of the appeal of a 2011 court ruling in Marin that put the death penalty on hold, according to the according to the Marin Independent Journal.

    Prison officials may not have adhered to "complex administrative rules" around the three-drug cocktail used in the lethal injection execution method, according to the paper.

    A three-judge Court of Appeal panel heard arguments on Tuesday, and a justice told one lawyer that "the amount of conceded mistakes here is unusual," the newspaper reported. That's not a good thing.

    "Arcane legal rules" will decide the fate of the death penalty in California -- however, there are also federal court challenges to lethal injection, the newspaper reported.

    The state was ordered in 2006 to adopt new training methods and a new way of giving the lethal drugs. However, a judge in 2011 found that the state didn't obey its own rules -- meaning those procedures have been tossed. The judge also found issue with California's three-drug lethal cocktail; other states use one drug.