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New State Death Penalty Plan Challenged in Court

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California has seen no executions since 2006, and a new lawsuit by a Death Row inmate challenging a new set of execution procedures meant to get the practice rolling again may continue to delay them.

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Details from the L.A. Times on an inmate convicted for torturing and murdering a pizza deliveryman challenging the latest attempt to get a legal execution system back running in California:

The lawsuit filed by Mitchell Sims, 50, alleges that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation rushed through revisions of the lethal injection procedures and deliberately sought to shut the public out of the process.

Corrections officials approved the changes one day before a May 1 deadline and sent them to the Office of Administrative Law for endorsement. That office endorsed the changes late April 30, allowing the execution plans to move forward to state and federal courts for review.

Executions have been on hold in California since early 2006, when U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel expressed concern that some of the 13 death sentences carried out in the state in the past two decades might have exposed prisoners to unconstitutionally "cruel and unusual punishment."

Among the issues raised in Sims lawsuit, the AP reports, is " that regulators failed to adequately consider other execution methods as an alternative to the three-drug cocktail" currently intended for use in California executions. The first shot is intended as an anesthetic; the second to paralyze; and the third to stop the heart.

A July poll shows 70 percent of California voters do want a return to an active death penalty.

The tangled legal history and practice of the death penalty in California can be followed at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's web site.

Image by Flickr user Steve Rhodes. Used under user Creative Commons license.

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