California Death Penalty Rejected by Marin Judge

Executions in California on hold as death penalty method rejected.

By Chris Roberts
|  Saturday, Dec 17, 2011  |  Updated 10:34 AM PDT
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A judge has halted lethal injection executions at San Quentin until certain conditions are met.

A judge has halted lethal injection executions at San Quentin until certain conditions are met.

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The death penalty in California is on hold after a judge ruled that the state's method of execution is inexcusable.

Prisons have for several years used a three-drug mixture to execute prisoners. Marin County Superior Court Judge Fay D'Opal said Friday that prison officials had failed to adequately explain why the three-drug cocktail was better than a single drug, especially after critics of the three-drug mixture had written that one of the three drugs "is unnecessary, dangerous, and creates a risk of excruciating pain," according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Marin County is where San Quentin State Prison's death row -- the only death row in California -- is located, and where convicted murderer Tookie Williams, one of the last inmates to be put to death in California, was executed in 2005.

The ruling means that any and all executions in California are indefinitely on hold while prison officials decide to appeal the ruling or to concoct a new way to execute criminals. The latter process could take up to a year, according to reports.

A federal judge had slapped a stay on executions in 2006, calling the process "flawed."

Executions have been blasted as expensive as well as inhumane. A former prison warden estimated each execution can cost as much as $200,000.

There are 720 inmates on California's death row, many of whom have been there for decades. The inmate bringing the lawsuit challenging lethal injection, for example, was sentenced to die for a murder committed in 1985.

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