Brown Orders Dept. of Corrections to Consider New Death Penalty Protocols

Chair in San Quentin's death row. (Scott Shafer/KQED)
Chair in San Quentin's death row. (Scott Shafer/KQED)

Gov. Jerry Brown has quietly ordered the State Department of Corrections on Thursday to begin considering new protocols, including a lethal injection with just one drug, which would allow the resumption of capital punishment.

The order was alluded to in a notice of appeal  Thursday by Attorney General Kamala Harris. The state is appealing  a December court order by a Marin County judge that once again halted executions. The ruling was a blow to California’s attempt to resume capital punishment after it revised a three-drug protocol in response to a 2006 federal court decision. That ruling held that excruciating pain potentially felt by an executed inmate would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

In response to a question about the order from KQED’s Scott Shafer, the governor’s office sent a one-sentence reply: “My administration is working to ensure that California’s laws on capital punishment are upheld and carried out in conformity with our statutes.”

The last inmate executed in California was convicted murderer Clarence Ray Allen in 2006.

Since California voters legalized the death penalty in 1978, the state has executed 13 inmates, while the number who linger on death row has climbed to more than 700.

Brown vetoed death penalty legislation when he was previously governor in 1977, but the legislature overrode him. In his 2010 campaign for governor, he swore to uphold the state law.

In November, voters will consider a ballot measure that would change the maximum sentence in California from death to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I believe the best way to protect our children, our neighborhoods, our communities, is to utilize the money we have been wasting on an ineffective punishment to solve crimes, to keep police on the streets, and that’s what our initiative does,” former San Quentin warden Jeanne Woodford told Scott Shafer last December. Woodford is now a vocal opponent of capital punishment and a leading force in the drive to have it repealed.

Mark Klaas gained national attention after the 1993 murder of his twelve-year-old daughter Polly by Richard Allen Davis, who had abducted her from her home in Petaluma. Davis was a parolee with a long criminal record, and the grim resolution of the case helped galvanize the successful effort to pass California’s Three Strikes and You’re Out Law in both the legislature and by voter initiative in 1994. Klass strongly opposes the initiative to end the death penalty.  “I believe Polly and all the other girls and people he victimized through his long criminal history deserve peace of mind,” he told Shafer. “And I believe they can’t get peace of mind until justice is administered, and in this case it’s the death penalty.”

You can read the reference to Brown’s directive on the second page of Kamala Harris’ filing… Gov. Jerry Brown Orders Dept. of Corrections to Examine New Death Penalty methods

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