California seeks to end execution lawsuit, cites moratorium
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom sought to end a long-running federal lawsuit challenging California’s lethal injection process on Friday, arguing that it is no longer valid because of his moratorium on executions.
Death penalty opponents are challenging the state’s plan to use a single powerful barbiturate, instead of three drugs, to execute criminals.
Newsom’s administration said in a court filing that there is no need to debate the process because the Democrat halted executions in March for at least as long as he is governor.
“By order of the Governor, there is no execution protocol in effect in California; execution facilities were closed; and ... every person sentenced to death in California, received an indefinite reprieve from execution,” the state attorney general’s office wrote in a filing on his behalf.
Death penalty supporters have said that the law remains on the books despite the governor’s decision and the procedures should be in place if executions one day resume. But Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation that backs the death penalty and crime victims’ rights, agreed with Newsom that the case initially filed in 2006 should be dismissed.
“There is no (execution) protocol at present. There should be, but there isn’t. So there’s nothing to litigate,” he said.
The administration acknowledged that “it is theoretically possible” that the state may one day seek to resume executions. But it argued that the courts “may not issue advisory opinions or declare rights in hypothetical cases.”
His filing noted that Democratic lawmakers may put the question to voters again in the November 2020 election. However, voters supported capital punishment in 2012 and 2016, when they voted to speed up executions by shortening appeals.
“We intend to attempt to discuss this issue further with counsel for the governor ... and better understand its position,” said David Senior, head attorney for the lead plaintiff in the case, condemned inmate Michael Morales.
He declined further comment.