By Michele Hanisee
California voters in November approved sweeping reforms to preserve and fix the state’s broken death penalty system by passing Proposition 66 and rejecting a proposition that would have ended the death penalty in California.
However, within hours of passage, death penalty opponents filed a lawsuit to challenge the initiative, seeking to have it overturned in whole or in part, and the Supreme Court stayed the “implementation of all provisions of Proposition 66” and agreed to hear that case.
The ADDA, along with ten other Deputy District Attorney Associations, has filed an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) response that painstakingly takes apart the arguments against Proposition 66. The lawsuit challenging Prop. 66 brought by former Attorney General John Van de Kamp and Ron Briggs is a frivolous challenge based on patently false claims. The Supreme Court will hopefully see the plaintiff’s challenge for what it is-a desperate last ditch attempt by the losing side in a political campaign to accomplish in court what it failed to do before the voter’s campaign.
Another temporary roadblock was created by the state’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL), which rejected a new lethal injection protocol that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) proposed.
The new protocol replaced the old three-drug cocktail with a single, 7.5-gram dose of one of four barbiturates. The CDCR proposed the new protocol to address legal challenges that the state’s existing execution method was unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. The state has not executed a criminal since 2006.
However, the OAL took issue with some of the protocol’s provisions in a 25-page decision issued on Dec. 28. Among other things, the office questioned why a 7.5-gram dose would be administered when the CDCR acknowledged 5 grams would be sufficiently lethal; why there would be a $50 cost limit on inmates’ last meals; and why inmates would have the option of taking a sedative before the execution begins.
The CDCR has four months to address those issues and resubmit the protocol to the OAL. However, as the list of objections above demonstrates, death penalty opponents continue to invent excuses to block the resumption of executions. It is noteworthy that last year California passed legislation that allowed the use of drugs for “assisted suicide.” Even if the CDCR proposed to use the same drugs/dosage California now allows for “assisted suicide,” you can be sure death penalty opponents would still object.
One thing these two instances make abundantly clear; despite the will of the state’s voters, now expressed in multiple elections in recent years, those opposed to executions in California will do everything they can to keep duly convicted murderers alive.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.