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Will Northern California Judge Kill New Lethal Injection Procedure?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on December 16, 2011 3:03 PM

Marin County Superior Court Judge Faye D'Opal might give the death penalty the axe.

Judge D'Opal issued a tentative opinion on Thursday, finding that the state prison officials did not follow proper procedure when developing the California's new lethal injection protocol, reports the American Bar Association.

D'Opal is holding a hearing today to let prison officials make their case for why the new lethal injection procedure should remain in place.

The tentative ruling questioned whether prison officials failed to properly consider a one-drug alternative to the new three-drug lethal injection combination. D'Opal noted that one of the experts consulted during the process advised that the one-drug option was superior to the three-drug lethal injection combination the department adopted. One of the three drugs in the current adopted protocol, pancuronium bromide "is unnecessary, dangerous, and creates a risk of excruciating pain," reports The San Francisco Chronicle.

Judge D'Opal also criticized that Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for neglecting to disclose the costs of executions and justify its pre-execution procedures, like "shackling death row prisoners with waist restraints during visits and checking on them every 15 minutes for five days before a scheduled execution," and for failing to properly notify California's 720 death row inmates about the new procedure, according to KTVU.

If the tentative ruling becomes final, it could trigger a lengthy new lethal injection procedures revision. The revision that spawned the current protocol lasted more than a year. Prison officials received almost 30,000 comments on the current protocol during the process, according to the Marin Independent Journal.

Judge D'Opal is expected to make a final determination in the matter shortly.

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