Decision clears path for California to resume death penalty

Jun 30, 2015

The Supreme Court’s Monday ruling on an Oklahoma death penalty case could mean that California’s long-stalled executions could resumeHoward Mintz, San Jose Mercury News:


“By upholding Oklahoma's controversial three-drug lethal injection method in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court appears to have removed a key legal hurdle for California to rely on some form of lethal drug.


"’(It is) a pretty strong green light for California to go forward with whatever lethal injection protocol fits their own regulations and interests,’ said Douglas Berman, an Ohio State University law professor and author of the Sentencing Law and Policy blog.


“If California's revised lethal injection method does survive the legal gauntlet, it could open the spigot on executions in the state, which has had just 13 since the death penalty was restored in 1978. At least 15 death row inmates have exhausted their appeals and are eligible for execution dates, including three condemned Bay Area killers.”


Lawmakers and the Governor are searching for solutions to two perpetually underfunded areas in special sessions this summer: transportation infrastructure and health care.  Fenit Nirappil and Judy Lin, Associated Press:


“At issue in the sessions ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown is how California should pay billions of dollars for needed road and highway repairs as well as funding Medi-Cal, the state's medical insurance program for the poor. Medi-Cal now provides coverage to one in three Californians.


“There's no set deadline for reaching deals. Lawmakers plan to take up the issues separately.


“Brown, a Democrat, had pledged in his 2010 campaign to take tax increases to the ballot but says he didn't make a similar promise during his re-election campaign.


"’We'll have to leave that as an open question,’ he said.”


Any new taxes proposed in the special sessions will require some Republican votes, giving the minority party more clout than usual. What are they gonna do with it? Chris Megerian, LAT:


“Republicans are eager to help find money to fix up the state's dilapidated roads, highways and bridges. But perhaps more important, it's one of the rare issues where votes from the minority party could affect the outcome.


“Democratic lawmakers want to use a special legislative session, called by Gov. Jerry Brown to address an estimated $59 billion worth of road problems, to raise gas taxes or create new fees. Generating additional revenue is impossible without support from Republicans because it requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature.


“So far, Republicans are reluctant to support any taxes or fees, and they've put forward their own plans to use existing funds for roads.


"’Sacramento has ignored this problem and mismanaged taxpayers' funds for years, many years,’ said Assemblyman Eric Linder (R-Corona). ‘How can we possibly ask taxpayers to trust Sacramento with more of their hard-earned money?’"


Speaking of Republicans, Cathleen Decker notes that California’s GOP dodged a bullet when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the state’s Citizens

Redistricting Commission:


“[It] was a victory for Republicans, spared the alternative of having the strongly Democratic Legislature draw lines that would have carved into the GOP’s already paltry number of elected officials. Elsewhere, it was a defeat for Republicans, who control legislatures in places like Arizona, where the case originated, and wanted the restoration of the legislature's power to draw lines beneficial to their party.


“The winners in the Arizona case announced Monday were Republicans representing districts for which the independent commission drew less-partisan lines than the Democratic Legislature otherwise would have. Among members of Congress, they included Reps. David Valadao of Hanford, Jeff Denham of Turlock and Stephen Knight of Palmdale. All three already are on the GOP’s endangered incumbents’ list for 2016.”


Last month Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill to ban solitary confinement in juvenile detention facilities.  The bill goes to the Public Safety Committee Tuesday.  Kelly Davis, The Crime Report:


“Leno’s bill is scheduled to be heard by the state Assembly’s public safety committee tomorrow (June 30)—the penultimate step before it’s voted upon. Despite three previous attempts to pass similar legislation, Leno believes the bill will succeed, given the increased scrutiny nationwide on the use of solitary confinement.


“In May, Illinois became the 20th state to ban the practice in juvenile detention facilities.


“’I don’t believe there’s any data that even begins to suggest that there is anything beneficial to this practice,’ Leno said in an interview with The Crime Report. ‘The idea that taking a troubled youth with behavioral problems and putting that youth in solitary confinement—whether for 10 hours or 23 hours—and thinking the behavior is going to improve, is completely irrational.’”


SB 277, the hotly-debated mandatory vaccine bill sailed through a concurrence vote in the senate and is now headed for Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.  He has 12 days to act on the legislation.  Robin Acarian looks at the ardent opponents to the bill, the “passionate, persistent and science-averse.”  From the Los Angeles Times:


“Over the last few months, as the battle over SB 277 has raged, things have sometimes gotten ugly.


“In Sacramento, two pro-vaccine lobbyists were stalked and harassed. Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan, the bill’s co-author, has been threatened. A recall effort against him has been launched.


“Vaccine opponents reject the idea that the legislators, pediatricians and education professionals who support mandatory vaccines for most children sincerely believe they are acting in the best interest of children and their communities, or that the science is on the side of vaccine proponents.


“You will hear the argument that vaccine manufacturers have legislators in the palm of their hands, that requiring vaccines is the corrupt result of a system awash in money from Big Pharma.


“It has also become apparent to me, after listening to many parents who oppose some or all vaccines, that they believe they know more about how disease is spread than epidemiologists and experts who study these issues for a living.”


And finally, a headline to make Alabama proud:  “Teen killed a chicken every 15 minutes until mom made nice with his girlfriend


“Deputies say the situation started when [Haden] Smith texted his mother, threatening to kill one of her chickens every 15 minutes until she contacted his girlfriend’s parents and attempted to mend their broken relationship.


“Smith gave his mother a deadline of noon before he started to kill the chickens. He also threatened to burn his mother’s house down, kill any deputies that arrived on the scene, and kill himself, according to the sheriff’s office.


“Smith then began sending his mother picture messages of each chicken he killed at 15 minute intervals, killing six in total before he was arrested, deputies say.”


Kudos to the nameless wire reporter who wrote this piece, with special props for saving the kicker for last:


“There’s no word on Smith’s current relationship status.”