In April 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's three-drug protocol. In February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Arizona's lethal injection process. Arizona resumed executions. Yet in California, there is only delay. A different federal judge wants a review of new procedures designed to make California's lethal injection even more humane. The new timetable would delay California's death penalty until at least September. And then, who knows?
"California's execution protocol is equal to or better than those already approved by the U.S. Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit," Kent Scheidegger of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation noted last month. "There is no legitimate basis for further delay."
And: "If the judges wanted these cases to go forward, they could go forward."
The worst of it is that it doesn't matter if juries found defendants guilty of capital murder. It doesn't matter if voters approved their state's death penalty law. It doesn't matter if the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld states' capital punishment protocols. As long as there are judges and politicians willing to undermine the appellate process, capital punishment opponents don't have to win at the ballot or in front of the nation's top court to beat the death penalty.
And as long as the media don't challenge dubious claims of a convicted killer's innocence, the delay tactics may even seem benign. But Maureen Faulkner knows otherwise. Her family lived through a three-decade ordeal as the "free Mumia" crowd lionized a cop killer. Now she's had enough.
As she wrote last week, "should the jury decide on a death sentence again as they should, we would then start the whole decades-long appeals process over again, and we will be forced to repeat the past 30 years as if they never happened."