Judge gets view of execution chamber

first_imgSAN QUENTIN – A federal judge reviewing the constitutionality of California’s lethal injection method stepped inside the state’s execution chamber Thursday for a rare glimpse of a tiny room where 13 inmates have died since 1992. The visit was part of a fact-finding mission ahead of May hearings that U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel will preside over challenging the constitutionality of the state’s three-drug death cocktail. Citing security and other concerns, the state objected to the media’s presence at the tour at San Quentin State Prison, which also included testimony from an unidentified prison official who took part in nine executions. The media sued, and Fogel allowed inside two reporters from the San Jose Mercury News and The Sacramento Bee. Outside the prison, the reporters said the judge “wanted to understand every step of the procedure.” The almost four-hour hearing was prompted by an invitation by state prosecutors defending the state’s execution protocol. The tour came three weeks after California proposed altering its lethal injection protocol amid allegations its execution method might cause prisoners too much pain and violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The case was brought by Michael Morales, who was scheduled to be executed Feb. 21. The injection was postponed indefinitely after the prison could not comply with Fogel’s order for changes in the procedure to ensure Morales would not feel too much pain. Thursday’s prison tour was a prelude to May 2 hearings in which Fogel must determine whether California’s method of execution is constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has never addressed whether lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment but has upheld executions in general despite the pain they may cause prisoners. Thirty-seven of 38 states with capital punishment use lethal injection. Morales is on death row for killing 17-year-old Terri Winchell in San Joaquin County 25 years ago. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more