The U.S. Supreme Court shot down an attempt by three California district attorneys to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection protocol earlier this month.
San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Mateo County DAs Jason Anderson, Michael A. Hestrin, and Stephen M. Wagstaffe had petitioned the Court for a writ of certiorari in May.
The lawsuit was filed in 2018 by five men on California’s death row who argued that the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol constituted cruel and unusual punishment. But after Gov. Gavin Newsom put executions on hold in 2019, the plaintiffs and the state attorney general agreed to dismiss the litigation without prejudice since the method issue was now moot. The district attorneys attempted to intervene, arguing that the state did not adequately represent their interests. They also sought a lift of the stays of execution for the plaintiffs. A federal judge disqualified their motion. They then appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which found they had no standing in the litigation and affirmed the lower court ruling in March.
So Anderson, Hestrin, and Wagstaffe petitioned the Supreme Court. It was denied on the first day of the start of the Court’s new term, October 3.
“From the beginning, the attempt of these three prosecutors to intercede in a case in which they were not parties was not only unprecedented but bizarre. The denial of cert by the Supreme Court should be the end of it,” criminal attorney and DPF board member Robert M. Sanger stated.
Kevin Cooper, one of the plaintiffs in the lethal injection challenge, said he was “elated” by the Court’s denial. “It was a much-needed ruling to put those rogue prosecutors back in their place,” he said.