“River of Fire”: In New Memoir, Sister Helen Prejean Reflects on Decades of Fighting Executions

The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15-year moratorium. This week Attorney General William Barr proposed fast-tracking executions in mass murder cases, and last month ordered the execution of five death row prisoners beginning in December. The federal government has executed just three people since 1963 — the last being in 2003. The death penalty is widely condemned by national governments, international bodies and human rights groups across the world. Experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the criminal justice system extend to those sentenced to death. We speak with Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist who began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She is the author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. …

California unveils new lethal injection execution rules

Corrections officials on Thursday announced new procedures for executing prisoners by lethal injection, beating a May 1 deadline by a day and clearing a major obstacle to resuming capital punishment after a hiatus of more than 4 years.

The proposed changes in the death chamber procedures are intended to address concerns expressed by a federal judge in 2006 that the state’s previous 3-drug formula may have exposed some of the 13 people executed in the last 2 decades to unconstitutionally "cruel and unusual punishment."

Although the new procedures could get final approval from the state Office of Administrative Law within a month, executions are unlikely to resume soon as state and federal judges must first review the largely minor changes and decide whether they address the constitutional questions and procedural complaints by death penalty opponents. Those reviews are likely to extend at least through the end of the year.

California has 703 inmates on death row, and a handful of capital convicts are making their way to San Quentin State Prison, where the lethal injection chamber is located.

Despite having the nation's largest population of condemned inmates, there hasn't been an execution in the state since January 2006, when convicted killer Clarence Allen was put to death.

"This is the final step in the rule-making process," said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that has spent the past year combing through public comments on the proposed revisions. The department was facing a May 1 deadline to finish the reforms.

At least 6 of the more than 700 inmates on death row have exhausted all appeals and could be scheduled for execution as soon as the legal reviews are completed, said Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation that supports the resumption of executions.

Source: L. A. Now, April 29, 2010

On April 29th, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) released the new lethal injection procedures. No major changes were evident. The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) now has 30 days to decide if CDCR followed the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Executions are not likely to resume this year.

You can review the new procedures and related documents here.

You can read a story in the Los Angeles Times.

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