New rules bring California a step closer to resuming executions

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California published its proposed new rules for lethal injection of condemned prisoners on Friday, moving the state a step closer to resuming executions after nearly a decade of not doing so.

The proposed regulations, released for public comment Friday morning, would instruct prison officials to use a single drug for lethal injections, rather than the three-drug cocktail that was declared unconstitutional by a California court because it may not block pain to the recipient.

The state, the most populous in the country and a Democratic stronghold where public support for the death penalty has been slipping for years, stopped executing prisoners after Clarence Ray Allen was put to death nearly 10 years ago for three murders in Fresno.

But juries have continued to sentence defendants to die, sending 181 felons to death row since Allen's execution in January of 2006.

Notable death penalty cases:

Notable death penalty executions and people on death row
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New rules bring California a step closer to resuming executions

Willie Francis, the first known incident of failed execution by lethal injection, was executed on May 9, 1947. He was sentenced to death for the murder of his former boss, Andrew Thomas. 

(AP Photo/File)

John Wayne Gacy, a rapist and serial killer responsible for the sexual assaults and murders of at least 33 men, was executed in Illinois on May 10, 1994. 

(AP Photo/File)

Ted Bundy, a kidnapper, rapist, and serial killer responsible for the assaults and murders of dozens of young women, was executed in in Florida on January 24, 1989. His actual victim count remains unknown.

(AP Photo/File)

Aileen Wuornos, a serial killer responsible for the deaths of seven men, was executed in Florida on October 9, 2002. 

(AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)

Charles Starkweather, a spree killer responsible for eleven murders, was executed in Nebraska on June 25, 1959. 

(AP Photo/Don Ultang)

Timothy McVeigh, responsble for the Oklahoma City bombing, was executed in Indiana on June 11, 2001.

(AP Photo/File)

Thomas Provenzano, a convicted murderer responsible for shooting three people, was executed in Florida on June 21, 2000.

(AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)

Gary Gilmore, responsible for the shooting deaths of two men, was executed in Utah on January 17, 1977.

(AP Photo)

Stanley "Tookie" Williams, founder and leader of the Crips gang responsible for several murders and other crimes, was executed in California on December 13, 2005.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Teresa Lewis, convicted of murdering her husband and stepson, was executed in Virginia on September 23, 2010.

(AP Photo/Va Dept of Corrections)

William Bonin, a serial killer responsible for a minimum of 21 rapes and murders, was executed in California on February 23, 1996.

(AP Photo/File)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, responsible for Boston Marathon bombing, was sentenced to death on May 15, 2015.

(AP Photo/Federal Bureau of Investigation, File)

Nidal Malik Hasan, responsible for Ford Hood shooting, was sentenced to death on August 28, 2013.

(AP Photo/Bell County Sheriff's Department, File)

Joseph E. Duncan III, a convicted murderer and sex offender, was sentenced to death on August 27, 2008.

(AP Photo/Kootenai County First Appearance Video Court)

Death row prisoner Coy Wayne Wesbrook is photographed Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit outside Livingston, Texas. Wesbrook, 58, is set for lethal injection March 9, 2016, for the November 1997 fatal shootings of his ex-wife and another man at her apartment in Channelview, just east of Houston. They were among five people killed during the shooting rampage. (AP Photo/Michael Graczyk)

Corrections officials say they are required by law to carry out executions if legal roadblocks, such as a Marin County judge's order banning the three-drug cocktail, do not prevent such action.

The state has developed the new rules to comply with the Marin County judge's order. Earlier this year, the state stopped fighting the order, and said it would develop a new protocol that would be in compliance with the judge's ruling.

However, it was not immediately clear when - or whether - the state would resume executions.

Representatives of California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Prison officials have said they are developing the new protocol simply because they need to follow California law authorizing juries to impose the death penalty in certain cases.

But politicians in California also have not had the stomach to force the issue in a state where many top officeholders, including the attorney general, oppose the death penalty. A slim majority of voters, about 56 percent, support it, the lowest number in years, according to a Field Poll last year.

Even before the court blocked the three-drug cocktail in 2010, the pace of executions in California was slow, with just 13 people executed from 1978, when the death penalty was reinstated, to 2006.

Still awaiting execution are 747 prisoners who have been condemned since 1978. Sixty-nine inmates have died of natural causes while on death row and 24 have committed suicide.

A public hearing on the proposed lethal injection protocol is set for January 22, the state said.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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