California’s new lethal injection protocol was rejected by a state regulatory agency late last month, another setback for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in its attempt to begin executions again.
The Office of Administrative Law’s 25-page decision cited inconsistencies, inadequate justifications for parts of the proposal, ambiguities, and a failure to adequately respond to public comments as the basis for its rejection.
Among OAL’s concerns:
- The new protocol calls for a one-drug procedure, a choice of four barbiturates: amobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital, and thiopental. The selection would occur on a “case-by-case basis, taking into account changing factors such as the availability of a supply of chemical.” The single-drug would be administered in a 7.5 gram dose. Why, the OAL asked, would a 7.5 dose be administered when corrections officials had said a 5 gram dose would be lethal? What was the reason for a higher dose than needed?
- CDCR’s timetable for the days leading up to the execution, plans for what would be done if an inmate didn’t die as quickly as planned during an execution, who the inmate would be permitted to have present at the execution, and why inmates would be offered a sedative before the lethal drugs were administered, were issues that were unclear or not even addressed, according to OAL.
- CDCR received some 35 thousand public comments on the new protocol, many of which were concerned with the plans to use untested drugs, and the issue of whether this amounted to human experimentation. There were also questions about the risk of a mentally ill inmate being executed. CDCR’s response to these concerns were “nonresponsive and inadequate,” OAL said.
CDCR has four months to resubmit its protocol.
OAL’s rejection comes on the heels of last month’s decision by the state Supreme Court to stay the implementation of Proposition 66, which narrowly passed last year after promising voters that it could “fix” the state’s costly and dysfunctional death penalty system by adding additional expenses and layers of review. The stay was granted after two of the backers of Prop 62, which would have abolished the death penalty and replaced it with a maximum sentence of life without parole, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Prop 66.
California’s last execution was in 2006 because of ongoing concerns over its lethal injection protocol. There are currently 748 people on death row.