The proposed regulations, released for public comment Friday morning, would instruct prison officials to use a single drug for lethal injections, rather than the three-drug cocktail that was declared unconstitutional by a California court because it may not block pain to the recipient.
The resulting regulatory filing shows that the state accessed many of its supporting materials on lethal drugs in late 2012 and early 2013, before the lawsuit was filed in 2014. A settlement of the suit, brought by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, required the state to devise a new lethal injection method by this month.
Those opposed, who are angered by what they perceive as foot-dragging by the Brown administration in resuming executions, are gathering signatures for an opposing measure. Public vetting and legal challenges are expected to take at least a year.
Even before the court blocked the three-drug cocktail in 2010, the pace of executions in California was slow, with just 13 people executed from 1978, when the death penalty was reinstated, to 2006. The selection would be made case by case, “taking into account changing factors such as the availability of a supply of chemical”, according to the proposal, published online Friday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The drugs listed are amobarbita, pentobarbital, secobarbital and thiopental.
Death-penalty advocates had called for a single-drug protocol and saw the ability to substitute one drug for another as a bonus.
Lethal injection was first used in the United States in 1982 and in California in 1996, after lethal gas usage was ruled unconstitutional.
But he and Death Penalty Information Center executive director Robert Dunham said at least two of the drugs carry practical difficulties, even though they have been used to executive prisoners in other states.
Of the 50 U.S. states, 31 practice the death penalty and 19 have abolished the punishment.
California has 749 inmates on death row, the most in the country. Still, Texas has been using pentobarbital that appears to have been acquired from a compounding pharmacy.
Ana Zamora, criminal justice policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Northern California, criticized California for “starting another costly and futile process”.
Other documents accompanying the proposal show the state sought guidance from materials on assisted suicide, including the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.