California Execution Resumption Up to Gov. Brown

The state supreme court upheld a voter initiative to speed executions, but the first one may be a year away. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has yet to finalize an execution protocol. It’s possible executions could be delayed until Brown leaves office in January 2019.

When the California Supreme Court upheld a voter initiative in August to speed executions, some death penalty advocates assumed lethal injections would resume before the end of the year. Now, both backers and opponents of the death penalty concede that executions might be more than a year away, reports the Los Angeles Times. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has yet to finalize an execution protocol, which is necessary to resolve a federal court case that has blocked lethal injection in California for nearly 12 years. An injunction stopping executions also is pending in state court. “Brown is the shot caller” in the litigation over lethal injection, said Michele Hanisee of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for L.A. County.

Hanisee expects the state to finalize a lethal injection protocol by January, but if Brown “doesn’t want it to move forward quickly, it won’t move forward quickly,” she said. Although no one can now predict when executions will resume, UC Berkeley law school Dean Erwin Chemerinsky said “it is just a matter of time.” He added that, “The uncertainty in all of this is what will Jerry Brown do.” Brown personally opposes the death penalty but enforced it as attorney general. Chemerinsky and other lawyers said it was conceivable that Brown and defense lawyers could delay executions until Brown steps down as governor in January 2019. Brown also could try to commute death sentences to life without parole, but his power is limited by the California Constitution.