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The law did not affect the execution method for those already sentenced. As a result, the last execution by hanging at Folsom was conducted December 3, The last execution by hanging at San Quentin was held May 1, ; the defendant had been convicted of murder in The gas chamber was installed at San Quentin State Prison in On December 2, , the first execution by lethal gas was conducted.

From that date through , people — including four women — were executed by gas, all at San Quentin. Beginning in , as a result of various state and United States Supreme Court decisions, there were no executions in California for 25 years. In , the United States Supreme Court held that the death penalty was unconstitutional as it was being administered at that time in a number of states.

In November , the California electorate amended the state constitution and in , legislation was enacted making the death penalty mandatory in specified criminal cases. Among these were kidnapping if the victim dies, train wrecking if any person dies, assault by a life prisoner if the victim dies within a year, treason against the state, and first-degree murder under specific conditions for hire, of a peace officer, of a witness to prevent testimony, if committed during a robbery or burglary, if committed during the course of a rape by force, if committed during performance of lewd and lascivious acts upon children, by persons previously convicted of murder.

In , the California Supreme Court, basing its decision on a United States Supreme Court ruling earlier that year, held that the California death penalty statute was unconstitutional under the U. Constitution because it did not allow mitigating circumstances to be admitted as evidence. Following this ruling, 70 inmates had their sentences changed to other than death. The California State Legislature re-enacted the death penalty statute in Under the new statute, evidence in mitigation was permitted. The death penalty was reinstated as a possible punishment for first-degree murder under certain conditions.

These special circumstances include: murder for financial gain, murder by a person previously convicted of murder, murder of multiple victims, murder with torture, murder of a peace officer, murder of a witness to prevent testimony and several other murders under specified circumstances. In , the Penal Code also was revised to include the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

At that time, the punishment for kidnapping for ransom, extortion or robbery was changed from death to life without parole.

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Treason, train derailing or wrecking, and securing the death of an innocent person through perjury became punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole. California voters approved Proposition 7 in November , reaffirming the death penalty in California. It superseded the statutes and is the death penalty statute under which California currently operates. Under state law, cases in which the death penalty has been decreed are automatically reviewed by the California Supreme Court which may:.

Even if the California Supreme Court affirms the death sentence, the inmate can initiate appeals on separate constitutional issues. Called Writs of Habeas Corpus, these appeals may be heard in both state and federal courts and can be used to introduce new information or evidence not presented at trial. Although the death penalty was reinstated in , executions did not resume in California until April 21, , when Robert Alton Harris was put to death in the San Quentin gas chamber. In January , California law changed to allow condemned inmates to choose either lethal gas or lethal injection as a method of execution.

San Quentin State Prison developed lethal injection protocols based on protocols from other jurisdictions Operations Procedure or OP On August 24, , condemned inmate David Mason was executed after voluntarily waiving his federal appeals.


Because Mason did not choose a method of execution, he was put to death by lethal gas, as the law then stipulated. In October , a U. District judge, Northern District San Francisco , ruled the use of cyanide gas was cruel and unusual punishment and barred the state from using that method of execution. The ruling was upheld by the U. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February That same year, the California Penal Code was modified to state that if either manner of execution is held invalid, the punishment of death shall be imposed by the alternative means. Serial killer William Bonin was executed on February 23, , by lethal injection, the first California execution using that method.

Morales is on death row for the kidnap, rape and murder of Terri Winchell. On December 15, , the U.

The specific deficiencies identified were:. The governor immediately directed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation CDCR to undertake a thorough review of all aspects of its lethal injection protocols. CDCR informed the court it would undertake a thorough review and submit to the Court by May 15, , a revised process.

CDCR assembled a team to conduct its review. In addition to reviewing and revising OP and focusing on the deficiencies identified by the court, CDCR sought to identify other improvements to the lethal injection protocol. The team consulted with experts and visited other jurisdictions. On May 15, , CDCR released a report to the court proposing revisions to the lethal injection protocol. A lethal injection protocol had been in effect since No court had required it to be promulgated as a regulation. The public comment period began on May 1, In January CDCR issued a notice of modification to the text of the proposed lethal injection regulations.

The changes in the re-notice were in response to comments received regarding the originally proposed regulation text. On June 11, CDCR published a second re-notice to the public addressing the issues raised by the OAL, and after accepting and responding to public comments, re-submitted its regulations on July 6, The rulemaking record was filed with the Secretary of State the same day to take effect with the force of law in 30 days. August 29, , was the permanent effective date of the regulations. The execution of condemned inmate Albert Greenwood Brown, Jr. It was rescheduled to September 30 after the governor issued a temporary reprieve to allow inmate Brown to exhaust all appeals under the law and to allow the California Supreme Court time to review lower court decisions in the various legal challenges surrounding the scheduled execution.

Although the State prevailed in the Court of Appeal, it could not carry out the execution until the California Supreme Court proceedings were final. The California Supreme Court indicated that more time was needed to review legal challenges by the involved parties. CDCR, et al.

The court issued an injunction prohibiting CDCR from executing anyone until such time as new lethal injection regulations were promulgated in compliance with the APA. The court permanently enjoined CDCR from carrying out the execution of any condemned inmate by lethal injection unless and until new regulations are promulgated in compliance with the APA. Proposition 34, the Death Penalty Initiative Statute, was a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty as the maximum punishment for people found guilty of murder.

California Execution Totals Since 1976

On November 6, , 52 percent of California voters voted against it. On July 16, , the U. District Judge Cormac J. From to when the U. Supreme Court commenced its moratorium on the death penalty , lethal gas was applied in some executions; from when the moratorium ended to it was used in only 11 executions.

The high cost of renovating disused gas chambers, as well as a growing perception of the method as unconstitutionally cruel, contributed to this trend, leading some scholars to predict in the early 21st century that the method would not be used again.

Gas chamber

The inmate was strapped to a chair with holes in the seat, below which was placed a container of sulfuric acid , distilled water, and sodium cyanide crystals. The executioner pulled a lever that mixed the cyanide crystals into the sulfuric acid—water container to create the hydrocyanic gas that the inmate inhaled. Although there is a consensus that cyanide affects many parts of the body, it is unclear at which point an individual becomes unconscious or dies, because pain and consciousness are difficult to measure.

Over time, eyewitnesses had also reported a number of long and gruesome lethal gas executions in California and other states. The U. Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of lethal gas. It did, however, vacate the federal appeals court ruling that lethal gas was unconstitutional because the California legislature called for lethal injection unless a prisoner specifically requested lethal gas.

Outside the United States no other country has adopted lethal gas as a constitutional method of carrying out capital punishment. During the Holocaust , however, Nazi Germany employed gas chambers for the purpose of killing Jews and other targeted groups. The chambers were established at concentration camps and usually disguised as bathhouses. Men, women, and children were herded naked into the chambers after being told that they were going to take showers.

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The doors were closed, and poison gas was injected. See also extermination camp. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. Gas chamber.

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