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Cruel And Unusual Punishment

December 16, 2006 | Carol J. Williams, Times Staff Writer
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday suspended executions until at least March while investigators examine why it took more than half an hour for a lethal injection to kill a convicted murderer. Angel Nieves Diaz, 55, appeared to grimace in pain and struggle for breath during the Wednesday night execution until a second dose of the fatal drugs was administered, according to witnesses. The execution at Florida State Prison in Starke took 34 minutes, three times longer than usual.
November 29, 2006 | Henry Weinstein, Times Staff Writer
California's procedures for executing prisoners by lethal injection fall short of standards set by the veterinary profession for animal euthanasia and were formulated with less care than methods in China, the world leader in capital punishment, according to a brief filed Tuesday in San Jose federal court by attorneys for a death row inmate.
September 30, 2006 | Henry Weinstein and Maura Dolan, Times Staff Writers
The most detailed hearing ever held on lethal injection in California concluded Friday with a judge exploring a new drug protocol that could prolong condemned individuals' deaths but also reduce the risk of an inmate experiencing excruciating pain. The current procedures call for a three-drug cocktail including a barbiturate anesthetic, a muscle-paralyzing drug and a heart-stopping chemical.
September 30, 2006 | Colin Dayan, COLIN DAYAN, who teaches the legal and religious history of the Americas at Vanderbilt University, is the author of "The Story of Cruel and Unusual," forthcoming from Boston Review/MIT Press.
FOR THE LAST WEEK, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel has been considering the case of Michael Morales, who was sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Terri Winchell in Lodi, Calif. The question facing the judge is whether lethal injection -- California's preferred method of execution -- violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment. But what exactly is cruel? And what's unusual?
September 27, 2006 | Henry Weinstein and Maura Dolan, Times Staff Writers
During the first day of a trial on the constitutionality of California's lethal injection method of execution, an expert on pharmacology said the drug used to anesthetize inmates wears off "extremely fast" and potentially exposes prisoners to painful deaths. "There is a possibility that inmates could emerge [from unconsciousness] and experience a painful execution," Dr. William Ebling, who has done extensive research on anesthetics, testified Tuesday in a San Jose federal courtroom.
September 26, 2006 | Henry Weinstein, Times Staff Writer
California's execution of condemned inmates by lethal injection will be put to its most stringent test ever at a hearing scheduled to start today in San Jose federal court. Attorneys for Michael Morales, who was sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Terri Lynn Winchell in Lodi, will try to show that California's procedures violate the 8th Amendment to the Constitution because they may inflict unreasonable pain upon inmates.
July 26, 2006 | Henry Weinstein, Times Staff Writer
A federal judge on Tuesday found that Missouri's revised lethal injection procedure was not adequate to ensure that condemned inmates did not suffer unnecessary pain. The state had modified its protocol in response to a ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan Jr., who barred executions until Missouri made significant changes to its procedure, which is similar to those used by about three dozen other states.
June 13, 2006 | David G. Savage, Times Staff Writer
The Supreme Court opened the door Monday for two new challenges to the death penalty, allowing the use of new DNA evidence to contest an old murder conviction and allowing an appeal based on the practice of lethal injection. In House vs. Bell, the court held for the first time that DNA evidence that undercuts a defendant's guilt is reason enough for a federal judge to reopen a case. The second case acknowledges the new research that suggests lethal injections could cause intense pain.
April 27, 2006 | David G. Savage, Times Staff Writer
The Supreme Court justices sounded split along conservative and liberal lines Wednesday during arguments on whether injections may be a cruel and painful method of execution. The justices are not likely to decide that ultimate question in the Florida case at hand, which focuses on a narrow issue. But the arguments offered insights into how the high court viewed the issue.
March 31, 2006 | Henry Weinstein, Times Staff Writer
In a highly unusual move, a federal judge on Thursday personally examined the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison as part of a legal challenge to the state's lethal injection procedure. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, whose rulings on the lethal injection challenge triggered an 11th-hour halt to Michael A. Morales' execution in February, told attorneys who accompanied him that the tour was "very useful to me."
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