Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

California prosecutors seek to jump-start death penalty

The new lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison is shown in this 2010 file photo. California has 14 death row inmates who are eligible for execution. AP photo

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2010 file photo, the new lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison is seen in San Quentin, Calif. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Robert Fairbanks' appeal of his death sentence for the 1985 rape and murder of college student Wendy Cheek. With that rejection, Fairbanks joined at least 14 other death row inmates who have "exhausted" their appeals to state and federal courts and are eligible for execution. Michael Morales, who was within hours of his execution in 2006 and Albert Brown, who was handed his death warrant in 2010 only to have his lethal injection called off a day before he was scheduled to die are also on the list of some of Californiaís most notorious killers. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, file)

By Paul Elias

SAN FRANCISCO — Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Robert Fairbank’s appeal of his death sentence for the 1985 rape and murder of college student Wendy Cheek.

With that rejection, Fairbank joined at least 13 other death row inmates who have completed the decades-long capital punishment appeals process and are eligible for execution.

Nonetheless, none of the 14 death row inmates who have “exhausted” their appeals will receive a lethal injection anytime soon — even though 53 percent of the California electorate reinforced its support of the death penalty with the rejection of Proposition 34 on Nov. 6.

Lawsuits in federal and state courts have halted executions since January 2006 and it will take months, maybe years, to resolve the litigation. Judges have ordered a halt to executions and lawyers with the state’s attorney general’s office have promised not to pursue any executions until the cases are resolved.

Still, a growing number of prosecutors, law enforcement officials and capital punishment proponents are pushing for the quick resumption of execution, citing the defeat of Proposition 34 as a mandate from the voters. 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.

Six other states already have abandoned the three-drug process and adopted the 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.

“I am simply trying to get the system moving,” Wagstaffe said. “I’m trying to shake the tree a little bit to get people to pay attention. He does deserve death for what he did to Wendy Cheek.”

Fairbank has been on death row since 1989, the other 13 inmates eligible for execution have been there longer, including Stevie Fields who arrived in 1979. Fields was convicted that same year of going on a “one-man crime spree” around the USC campus that included the rape and murder of a student librarian two weeks after his parole from prison on a manslaughter conviction.

Others on the list of inmates ready for execution include Michael Morales, who came within hours of his execution for the rape and murder of a teen before a judge blocked it in 2006 because of his lawsuit. Morales alleges the state’s process for administering the three-drug lethal cocktail is so flawed that inmates run the risk of suffering cruel and unusual punishment.

In response to a judge’s order prompted by Morales’ lawsuit, prison officials spent nearly $1 million to construct a sparkling new lethal injection facility that looks and feels like a high-tech hospital room, replacing the dark and decades-old gas chamber that was used in the past. They’ve also trained a new team of guards to carry out executions and revised their protocols. They say the state is now ready to resume executions.

Morales lawyers argue that the state still hasn’t done enough to ensure California’s executions are constitutional. A federal judge plans to hold a hearing on the matter later before making a decision, which could lead to the resumption of executions.

But a growing number of death penalty supporters like the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento say Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers can hasten executions if they move quickly to change state’s death penalty to a single drug.

“The state of Washington carried out an execution six months after adoption of the new method,” said Michael Rushford, president of the foundation, “and California can also.”

Rushford also said new laws limiting death penalty appeals and the admittance of more defense attorneys deemed qualified to handle such cases will also speed up the process.

McGregor Scott, a former U.S. attorney in Sacramento and a leader of the campaign against Proposition 34, said death penalty supporters would attempt to put a measure of their own in the 2014 ballot if lawmakers fail to adopt a one-drug injection for California.

“Other states have corrected the same problems, and it is now time for California to do the same,” Scott said in a prepared statement Nov. 7 after Proposition 34 was officially declared a loser. “If the Legislature continues to abandon its responsibility by refusing to implement common-sense reforms then we will put our full support behind a ballot initiative to get the job done in 2014.”

On the other side of the debate, supporters of the ballot measure vowed to continue fighting to end capital punishment in California. They said they would support the pending lawsuits and oppose attempts to restart executions with a single drug while working toward another campaign to end the death penalty, either through the Legislature or the ballot box.

Proposition 34 campaign officials said that support for the death sentences is eroding in California, noting that 71 percent of the electorate voted to reinstate capital punishment in 1978 compared to the 52 percent who voted against Proposition 34 this fall.

“We are going to move forward with the voters,” said Natasha Minsker, an ACLU attorney who managed the Proposition 34 campaign. “Fifty-two percent of the vote is not a mandate.”

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Benefit set for local bike legend

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A1

     
    Jury deliberates murder, elder-abuse charges

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    Davis wins USA Today Best Cycling Town honor

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    California residents divided on drought solution

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A2

    For the record

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A2

     
    Three killed in attack on Ukrainian base

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    State’s health care sign-ups beat projections

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Scholar will discuss human trafficking in Friday talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Downtown post office set to reopen

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3

    Run or walk to prevent child abuse in Yolo County

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Nominations sought for charity paint giveaway

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Food Co-op board plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Downtown hosts candidate forum

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

    Learn more about Google Glass at talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Per Capita Davis: Now, for some good news

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

    Birch Lane hosts 50th anniversary party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Hannah Stein reads poetry at gallery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis Food Co-op to offer free bags on Earth Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Get in the picture with school board candidate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    KDVS hosts on-air fundraiser April 21-27

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Tickets on sale for Pence Garden Tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Fundraiser planned for Allen’s campaign

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Barbecue celebrates winter shelter program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Sign of things to come

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A8

     
    Davis Soroptimists celebrate 60 years

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    Fancy meeting you here …

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Expert: Free parking is a myth

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Have they really learned?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    A great community effort

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Public Health Heroes honored

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Don’t miss a Trokanski dance

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Frank Bruni: The oldest hatred, forever young

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    Foster steps down as Lady Blue Devil basketball coach

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    River Cats’ streak reaches six wins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Landry evolves into UCD women’s lacrosse leader

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Huge inning propels Pleasant Grove past DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Giants edge Dodgers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Youth roundup: Martinez, Chan come up big at gymnastics regional

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Kings drop season finale to Suns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Angels get past A’s in extras

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Wineaux: Good deals off the beaten path

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A7

     
    Rockabilly phenom to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    HellaCappella showcases a cappella singing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    ‘One’ singular sensation to open at DMTC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    25th annual state clay competition exhibit at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Tapan Munroe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6