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Judge: Change execution method

first_imgSAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge ruled Tuesday that California must change its lethal-injection method for the execution of Michael Morales next week because the current mix of drugs could constitute cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose declined to immediately postpone Morales’ scheduled execution next Tuesday, but he ordered the state to either have an expert present to ensure that he’s unconscious from a sedative or replace a three-drug death potion with a lethal dose of barbiturate. Fogel said he was concerned that inmates are conscious and undergoing extreme pain once a paralyzing agent and then heart-stopping medication begin coursing through their veins. If the state declines to choose either new option, Fogel said he would stay the execution and have hearings on whether it is cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld executions in general despite the pain they might cause inmates, but has never directly addressed whether alleged pain in lethal injections is unconstitutionally excessive and can be avoided. Thirty-six of the 38 states that have capital punishment use a lethal-injection procedure similar to California’s. The state switched to lethal injection after a California judge ruled that death in San Quentin State Prison’s gas chamber was cruel and unusual punishment. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant “The present action concerns the narrow question of whether the evidence before the court demonstrates that defendants’ administration of California’s lethal-injection protocol creates an undo risk that plaintiff will suffer excessive pain when he is executed,” Fogel wrote. “While the court finds that plaintiff has raised substantial questions in this regard, it also concludes that those questions may be addressed effectively by means other than a stay of execution.” Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer, said the office was reviewing the decision and was not immediately prepared to comment. On Monday, it told Fogel that it rejected those two proposals. Attorneys for Morales alleged that a mistake in the sedation process might mean he would appear unconscious, but internally would succumb to excruciating pain once the paralyzing and death agents were administered. None of his attorneys was immediately available for comment. Morales, 46, of Stockton was convicted in 1983 of murdering Terri Winchell, 17, who was found beaten, stabbed and raped in a secluded vineyard. Fogel said he decided to change California’s injection protocol because, at the end of the day, neither “the death penalty nor lethal injection as a means of execution would be abolished.” last_img read more