Thursday, April 24, 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

.

News

 
4-H members get ready for Spring Show

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Will city move forward on public power review?

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

Attorneys at odds over Woodland infant’s death

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

 
Obama to Russia: More sanctions are ‘teed up’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 3 Comments

 
2 pursuits, 2 arrests keep Woodland officers busy

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
 
Youth sports in focus on radio program

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Rummage sale will benefit preschool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Concert benefits South Korea exchange

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Conference puts focus on Arab studies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Davis honors ‘green’ citizens

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Water rate assistance bill advances

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Program explores STEM careers for girls

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 5 Comments

 
Embroiderers plan a hands-on project

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Hotel/conference center info meeting set

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
MOMS Club plans open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Cycle de Mayo benefits Center for Families

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

Author to read ‘The Cat Who Chose to Dream’

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A12

 
.

Forum

Things are turning sour

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
The high cost of employment

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

High-five to Union Bank

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Broken sprinklers waste water

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Three more administrators?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Neustadt has experience for the job

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Here’s a plan to save big on employee costs

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
Davis is fair, thoughtful

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Ortiz is the right choice for Yolo

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

.

Sports

DHS tracksters sweep another DVC meet

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Another DVC blowout for DHS girls soccer

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1, 2 Comments | Gallery

Young reinvents his game to help Aggies improve on the diamond

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS boys shuffle the deck to beat Cards

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

DHS/Franklin II is a close loss for Devil softballers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Baseball roundup: Giants slam Rockies in the 11th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
UCD roundup: Aggies lose a softball game at Pacific

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

 
Jahn jumps to Sacramento Republic FC

By Evan Ream | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

Congressional art competition open to high school students

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Emerson, Da Vinci to present ‘Once Upon a Mattress’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Winters Plein Air Festival begins Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Bach Soloists wrap up season on April 28

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A11

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6