Thankfully, reason has prevailed in the state of California and a bill backed by the California District Attorneys Association (SB779) and written by Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine; San Diego County) that would have shortened death penalty appeals and reinstated the gas chamber as a means of capital punishment. The bill was defeated at the Public Safety Committee stage with a 5-2 vote. The authoring of this bill seems to be a reaction to the November 2012 ballot measure to repeal the death penalty in California altogether – which experienced a narrow defeat.
SB779 would have seriously limited the number of appeals concerning death penalty cases to only 2 – one state court appeal and one federal appeal. Many defense attorneys believed this legislation to be unreasonable, especially considering the work of the Innocence Project, which reviews over 2,000 cases annually in order to assist with exonerations of innocent men and women on death row in the California Western School of Law branch alone, some of them due to DNA testing and others due to police corruption. Furthermore, SB779 would have cut the public out of review of regulations concerning how executions are carried out and kept secret the names of medications utilized in executions, all while sanctioning a new type of execution – a suffocating nitrogen or helium gas chamber, causing unnecessary pain and suffering to those being executed.
In the state of California, there has been a great deal of debate over execution methods and appeals processes, including the ending of the use of cyanide gas in San Quentin in 1994 by a federal court judge due to evidence that this method of execution was “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is effectively banned by the United States Constitution. Since most Californians evidently want to do away with the death penalty altogether (as evidenced in the 2012 ballot measure), it seems reasonable that legislators have seen fit to deny the perverse and excessive measures laid out in SB779.
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