California will no longer pursue three-drug lethal injections

SAN FRANCISCO — California has dropped its legal efforts to win approval of a three-drug method of lethal injection and will instead propose single-drug executions, a prisons spokesman said Wednesday.

At the direction of Gov. Jerry Brown, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation decided against challenging a unanimous California appeals court ruling that blocked the three-drug method on the grounds it had not been properly vetted, said Jeffrey Callison, a corrections department spokesman.

He said he did not know when a new, single-drug method would be unveiled or which drugs the state was considering.

Law enforcement groups had wanted the state to appeal the May ruling by a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 1stDistrict Court of Appeal, and during the appeal, to push forward with a new single-drug method.

Any new method of execution will be subject to public comment and review by a federal court. The process could take years.


Many states have been moving to single-drug executions. A few have used pentobarbital, but the manufacturer has said it would no longer sell it to prisons.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-capital punishment Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said many of the drug companies are based in Europe and subject to pressure by anti-death penalty groups.

The state’s new method should permit executioners to choose from several alternative drugs “so they won’t have to go through the whole process every time some company cuts them off,” Scheidegger said.

“At some point we may need to have some government entity to do its own manufacturing,” he said.

The state revised its three-drug protocol in 2010, but court rulings prevented its use. One of the drugs was a paralytic agent that critics said could mask extreme suffering.

No one has been executed in California since 2006.


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