California’s ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty failed in November, but executions are nonetheless effectively on hold in California, as both the state attorney general’s office and several judges have halted executions pending litigation over the state’s lethal injection process. With what they call a “mandate” from the 52 percent of Californians who voted to defeat Proposition 34, prosecutors and other death penalty proponents are now escalating their efforts to resume executions for the 14 inmates pending on death row who are eligible for execution, taking their claims to court and threatening a counter-ballot initiative in 2014. The Associated Press reports:
They’re calling for an end-run around the legal hang ups, calling for the scrapping of the three-drug lethal injection at the center of the litigation and replacing it with a single-drug execution. […]
In recent months, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe have formally asked local judges for death warrants for three death row inmates and an order to execute them with a single, lethal dose of pentobarbital, a drug previously used to euthanize animals.
But a Los Angeles judge rejected Cooley’s motion and Wagstaffe is expecting the same treatment in San Mateo Superior Court, conceding his legal maneuver to have Fairbank’s executed soon is more symbolic than realistic.
Ironically, one of the primary arguments in favor of California’s Proposition 34 was that it would save the state billions of dollars in litigation and heightened prison expenses for capital inmates. Had the state passed the ballot initiative to legalize the penalty, it would have not only insured against any more erroneous death sentences; it would have rendered this ongoing battle over methods of execution irrelevant, along with the time and expense.