Now that the Supreme Court has upheld Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection method, California can resume carrying out the death penalty, although mandatory administrative procedures and hearings could slow the process.
California prison officials recently consulted with families of murder victims and said they would propose a new single-drug execution method within 120 days of the Supreme Court’s ruling if Oklahoma won in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s decision dismissed claims from death penalty opponents that the three-drug method violated the recipient’s right to a humane execution, writing, “Holding that the 8th Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”
Oklahoma was challenged for using midazolam as the first drug in its execution procedure after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who awoke after the drug was administered and was conscious when the next drugs was injected. Before midazolam was used as the first drug, sodium thiopental and later pentobarbital were the first drugs used, but drug manufacturers balked at supplying them.
California has executed 13 inmates since the death penalty was revived in 1978. Fifteen or more of the 750 death row inmates in the state have no more appeals and could be executed.
In 2013, a state appeals court invalidated the three-drug injection method; that prompted a settlement of a lawsuit that would force the state to find another method of execution. The problem with using the single-drug method is that suppliers of the lethal drug are reluctant to provide it.
An NBC News Poll in 2014 found that 59% of Americans supported the death penalty.