Executions Across the Nation Halted Due to Shortage of Sodium Thiopental

Sodium thiopental is a critical component of the three-drug cocktail that makes up the lethal injection procedure for most executions in this country.  It's the drug that makes the person lose consciousness, before the other two drugs first cause paralysis and then stop the heart.  (We've posted about the procedure in detail here.)

Drug Manufacturer Hospira, Inc. is Out of Product

Sodium Thiopental isn't made by many manufacturers -- in fact, there is only one company in the United States that makes the drug, Hospira Inc. of Lake Forest, Illinois.  Hospira doesn't have any more sodium thiopental to provide:  the company is reporting that it cannot ship out any more of its product until January 2011. 

Why?  Hospira can't make the drug until its own suppliers can ship Hospira the materials needed to make it.  That's not going to happen until January at the earliest.  (Sidenote: it's really eerie to know that Hospira makes this drug of death when you check out their friendly, health-oriented web page -- no wonder there's reports that Hospira isn't at all happy that its product is being used in killing people.)

Different States Responding Differently to the Shortage

California has decided that it will reschedule all California executions set after September 30, 2010, because of the sodium thiopental shortage. 

Oklahoma and Kentucky are on hold; Arizona is still trying to find some supply before an execution set to occur next month. 

Texas has enough on hand, and the shortage isn't impacting the Texas Execution Schedule, which has three executions set before the end of the year.  Surprise.

California's Scheduled Execution of Albert Greenwood Brown on Thursday Has Been Stopped

And, California's attempt to use the single-drug method in the execution of Albert Greenwood Brown this Thursday - the first execution to occur in California in five years?  Not happening. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the State of California, and ordered the Albert Greenwood Brown case returned to the lower court judge for procedural errors.  

The federal appellate court's order came down just after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had halted the Brown Execution for one day, apparently to coincide with the state Attorney General of California announcement that the Sodium Thiopental shortage would halt all the state's recently scheduled executions until sometime in 2011. 

When the drug is back on the market, wonder if California will have the money to pay for it?

Virginia Will Execute Teresa Lewis Tonight Absent a Miracle, My Comments to the Palm Beach Post

Virginia Death Row inmate Teresa Lewis, 41, has ordered her Last Meal:  fried chicken, sweet peas, and either German chocolate cake or apple pie for dessert, along with a Dr.Pepper.  Despite the efforts of lots of folk - including author John Grisham, for example - Teresa Lewis will die by lethal injection at the hands of the State of Virginia tonight unless nothing short of a miracle happens. 

Today, Teresa Lewis May Make History as the 1st Woman Executed by Virginia Since 1912

Lewis' final appeal was blocked by the United States Supreme Court just last week.  She has no more state appellate avenues to pursue.  Virginia Governor  Bob McDonnell could offer clemency, but he's already rejected Teresa Lewis' request once and there's not much hope that Governor McDonnell will change his mind at the eleventh hour.  

Governor McDonald Follow Ohio Governor Strickland's Recent Clemency Example? Doubtful.

Even Bianca Jaggar's plea, published today in the Huffington Post, may not be powerful enough to sway the governor.  Maybe Governor McDonald is remembering how Ohio Governor Ted Strickland granted clemency recently in the Kevin Keith case, and now he's trailing in the polls

My Perspective Was Asked by the Palm Beach Post - Here's The Gist of It

Given the fact that we don't often see women executed in this country, I was contacted by the Palm Beach Post to provide my perspective on the Teresa Lewis matter.  You can read the entirety of the article by reporter Daphne Duret online, entitled "Impending execution of Virginia woman brings spotlight to rarity of females on death row " 

As I related to Ms Duret and her readers, it has been my experience that mitigation is a powerful force for female defendants in a trial where the prosecution is seeking the death penalty.   When  a woman is found guilty of murder, juries seldom decide that a death sentence is appropriate.

A wide variety of mitigation factors usually exist in the personal histories of women who are on trial for capital murder, and these circumstances usually help juries to opt for mercy.  Women accused of homicide are always broken in some way -- there are histories of abuse, there are mental health issues, there are reasons for why their life path has resulted in their facing the jury in a death case. 

Key Issues in Teresa Lewis' Case - No Jury, Contributions of Male Co-Defendants

Perhaps the key issue in Teresa Lewis' case is that there was no jury involvement.  Teresa Lewis forego her right to a jury of her peers, and her criminal trial was in essence a plea of guilty and a sentence by the judge. 

However, another key issue is a point made by my colleague and mitigation expert Rosalie Bolin in the Palm Beach Post article: even when a woman is sentenced to death, they are usually sentences that are reduced later on in the process.  As Ms. Bolin points out, this is especially true when it's a multi-defendant case like Teresa Lewis' crime: the men who are co-defendants are usually found to be more responsible for the violence than the female.

There is a lot of mitigating evidence that a jury never heard before Teresa Lewis was sentenced to die for the murders of her husband and stepson (admitted homicides committed for life insurance money proceeds): 

  • the actual murderers, Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller, received only life sentences.
  • Teresa Lewis never held a weapon
  • Shallenberger, before his suicide, admitted that he - not Lewis - was the mastermind of the two murders-for-money  
  • Both male co-defendants would claim that Teresa Lewis was the follower of Shallenberger, doing as he wanted
  • IQ testing reveals Teresa Lewis (before sentencing) at  full scale IQ of 72, which is borderline mental retardation
  • After sentencing, psychological examination of Teresa Lewis revealed that she has  "multiple functional deficits, " and functions as a 12-14 year old 

Still, Teresa Lewis in all likelihood will die tonight.  Mitigation factors do exist in our statutes, but mercy is something bigger than laws written on books. 

It must exist in the hearts and souls of those setting in judgment -- and now, after one man setting in judgment sentenced Teresa Lewis to die, we all await to see how much mercy (or growing public outcry) may now sway another man, the governor of Virginia. 

Attribution Policy for the Blog: Please Review if You Want to Quote from DPB

Awhile back, a reader wrote asking about the blog's attribution policy.  So better late than never, here it is, and thanks to Kathlb for helping us get this task done.

We will license the work shown on the Death Penalty Blog under the Creative Commons Public License as detailed below, the Attribution Without Derivatives license.  You may download posts from the DPB and share them with others IF you mention the DPB/Terry Lenamon as the source and include a link back to DPB.  The contents of the blog posts cannot be changed.  They cannot be used commercially. 

In other words, please feel free to quote from the DPB as long as you identify the content as a quote, include a hyperlink to the DPB, and don't try and make money off of it. 





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Casey Anthony Has New Death-Qualified Attorney: Jacksonville's Ann Finnell

This past week, it was announced to the public by Casey Anthony's defense team that Florida's Ann E. Finnell had joined them, the latest death-qualified defense attorney to represent the young woman accused of murdering her toddler-daughter, Caylee Marie

This news comes on the heels of Professor Andrea Lyon withdrawing from the case in late June 2010. 

Ms. Finnell's efforts will focus upon the penalty phase of the trial, currently set for May 2011.  This, of course, means that Ann Finnell will take a lead role only when, and if, Casey Anthony is found guilty during the initial guilt or innocence phase of the trial.  (For the legal qualifications to serve as a death-qualified attorney under Florida law, read our earlier post.)

Personally, I don't know Ann Finnell but I've heard lots of great things about her -- she's known to be a fighter, a true believer, and a very good death penalty attorney.  As the first death-qualified attorney on the Casey Anthony case, I do know a bit about the representation that Ms. Finnell has just undertaken, however. 

And, as I did before with Professor Andrea Lyon, I wish my colleague Ann Finnell all the best in this important work. 

Connecticut Home Invasion Trial Spotlights Death Penalty Controversy

Connecticut is seeking the death penalty of two men who allegedly broke into the Cheshire home of a prominent doctor, Dr. William Petit, severely beating the doctor and killing his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and two daughters, Hayley,17, and Michaela, 11.  You've probably read about this case, or heard about it on television. 

And this trial will get lots of media time -- bringing lots of attention to the issues surrounding capital punishment in our country today.  The two men already offered to pled guilty and avoid a trial, in exchange for a life sentence.  The prosecution turned them down -- the state wants a sentence of death in this case, and it's wanting it bad. 

And with that guilty plea turned down, and the state's desire for death in this case, all the pros and cons for capital punishment in this country are spotlighted.  The Connecticut Home Invasion Case will clarify for us all exactly what the motivations are for the sentence of death in the United States today. For example, read the New Times' piece, opposing the death penalty in Connecticut despite the upcoming Petit Home Invasion trials.

This case is entirely about aggravating circumstances vs mitigating factors. 

 It's clear now, and has been during the six months that it took to pick a jury, that the Hayes trial (and assumedly the Komisarjevsky trial that follows) is not about guilt vs innocence.  No, the crux of this case is all about the penalty phase, where the state will advance its aggravating circumstances in horrific detail, to support its request for death, and where the defense will fight hard to mitigate against it. 

The media recognizes it.  In fact, it's probably the salient details involved in the sentencing phase of the trial that help keep this case in the national media's attention. 

Comparisons to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood are Being Made

The crime was brutal.  Brutal and shocking, just like the Clutter family's deaths back in Kansas that were made the subject of Capote's most famous work.  No doubt here. 

What happened isn't subject to much debate.  Two men broke into the Petit home, a nice house in a quiet neighborhood where these sorts of things just don't happen. Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky have been charged with breaking into the home, tying up the doctor and the daughters, and taking the wife away, forcing her to take money out of a nearby Bank of America (one of the bank tellers will testify, she called the police). 

Perhaps the scariest fact to the community was that Hayes allegedly chose Mrs. Petit at the local grocery, following her and her two daughters home.  Hayes then picked up Komisarjevsky and returned to the Petit residence. 

There, Hayes is accused of raping and strangling the wife, while Komisarjevsky is accused of raping the younger daughter.  Afterwards, the two children purportedly were tied to their beds, and gasoline was poured around them - setting the house on fire, and killing the two girls. 

Somehow, the doctor escaped and is now the state's star witness.  He is testifying today.  The two defendants were captured by police after they crashed the Petit's vehicle into a police car; Hayes was wearing one of the girl's hats at the time of his arrest. 

When the two men were arrested, they were on parole for burglary.  In fact, each of them had a record of over 20 burglary arrests on their records.  It's not up for argument that these were professional thieves. 

One of the big mysteries here is how two thieves turned so violent. 

Trial started this week for Steven Hayes in a New Haven courtroom.  Joshua Komisarjevsky awaits trial, which will not begin until Hayes' trial is completed. 


U.S. Supreme Court Sets Oral Argument in Three Death Penalty Cases: Thompson, Skinner, Pinholster

In just a few weeks the new term for the U.S. Supreme Court will begin, and the High Court has already scheduled oral arguments in three pending death penalty-related cases: Connick v. Thompson, Skinner v. Switzer, and Cullen v. Pinholster.  

1.  Connick v. Thompson comes out of Louisiana.  On October 6, 2010, argument will be heard in part on a $14,000,000 award granted to Mr. John Thompson, finally acquitted of charges for which he had been previously sentenced to death.  Argument will hinge on whether or not the impact of the award exposes prosecutors to vicarious liability in areas of prosecutorial misconduct.

Question Presented: "Whether failure-to-train liability may be imposed on a district attorney’s office for a prosecutor’s deliberate violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), despite no history of similar violations in the office." Go here to read the briefs on file by the parties and the amicus curaie briefing (all in full text). 

2. Skinner v. Switzer is a Texas case that will be heard on October 13, 2010.  Hank Skinner's case has become somewhat famous at this point -- as Mr. Skinner sets on Texas' death row, he is taking his fight to prove innocence into the civil courts (and out of the criminal system), asserting that he has a right to DNA testing as part of his constitutional civil rights.  

Question presented: "May a convicted prisoner seeking access to biological evidence for DNA testing assert that claim in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, or is such a claim cognizable only in a petition for writ of habeas corpus?"  Go here to read the briefs on file by the parties and the amicus curiae briefing (all in full text). 

3.  Cullen v. Pinholster will be held on November 9, 2010.  This California case delves into the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel in this mental illness case, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has already overturned Mr. Pinholster's death penalty sentence on the failure of his trial counsel to present mitigating evidence of Pinholster's mental health.

Questions Presented: "1. Whether a federal court may reject a state court adjudication of a petitioner’s claim as “unreasonable” under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and grant habeas corpus relief, based on a factual predicate for the claim that the petitioner could have presented to the state court but did not.

"2. Whether a federal court may grant relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on a claim that trial counsel in a capital case ineffectively failed to produce mitigating evidence of organic brain damage and a difficult childhood because counsel, who consulted with a psychiatrist who disclaimed any such diagnosis, as well as with the defendant and his mother, did not seek out a different psychiatrist and different family members." Go here to read the briefs filed by the parties and amicus curiae filings (all in full text.)

Kentucky Set to Execute Gregory Wilson on September 16: Wilson's IQ is 62 and He Had Horribly Inadequate Defense Counsel

In Kentucky, over 22 years ago, Gregory L. Wilson was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Deborah Pooley.  A co-defendant is serving a life sentence. 

Gregory Wilson should not be executed, many agree, but the grounds for stopping his execution are separate and strong:  there are those arguing against Wilson's execution because of his mental retardation.  There are others fighting against execution because of the shoddy indigent defense he was provided by the state of Kentucky at trial. 

1.  Indigent Defense Crisis Never More Obvious than in Gregory Wilson's Murder Trial.

There are lots of details surrounding the woefully inadequate defense that Mr. Wilson was provided when he was tried for murder back in 1987.  In what some have labeled a "sham trial," not only did Gregory Wilson not have death-qualified counsel for his case, the state only allotted $2500 as a fee for his legal team. 

Two thousand five hundred dollars for a DEATH CASE.  This is so ridiculous as to be insulting to us all. Right to counsel is a constitutional right -- and that is right to effective assistance of counsel, not just some kind of sham situation.  $2500 on its face should stop this execution. 

At this point, it starts to sound like a Coen Brothers movie, but it's the total truth: the trial judge in Greg Wilson's murder trial actually stuck a note on the door to the courthouse: "PLEASE HELP. DESPERATE. THIS CASE CANNOT BE CONTINUED AGAIN."  No wonder.  Where could the judge find responsible lawyers who could financially bear to take this case?  Lawyers must be fiscally responsible: they have staff with salaries to pay; they have families with mortgages to meet. 

Result?  Two lawyers volunteered.  The first, John Foote, had no experience in felony cases, much less murder cases, much less death penalty ones.  The second, William Hagedorn, was pseudo-retired, gave his office number as the phone number for a local bar, and didn't bother to show for over half the trial. 

Neither defense attorney interviewed, subpoenaed, or investigated as they needed to do.  Evidence that would have helped Wilson was never, ever presented to the jury.  It's been reported that Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, views Wilson’s case as one of the worst examples of inept counsel in a death case he's seen. I'm sure a lot of people agree with Mr. Bright.

2. Pope Benedict XVI , Several Bishops, and Others Urge Mercy for Kentucky's Gregory L. Wilson Due to His Mental Issues.

Yesterday, the Pope joined with several Kentucky Bishops and over 400,000 Catholics in requesting that the Governor of Kentucky use clemency power to stop the execution of Gregory Wilson.  (Read the letter to the Governor by the Pope's American representative here.)

It seems that Greg Wilson tests with an IQ of 62, and the usual demarcation for mental retardation in the United States is 70 or below.  Still, his execution has not been halted as cruel and unusual. 

Meanwhile, on a challenge to the lethal injection execution method, the federal appellate court has ruled that Mr. Wilson waited too long to bring up this issue.  What? 

Yes, the 6th Court of Appeals denied Gregory Wilson's appeal on the basis of controlling precedent regarding the execution method.  Nevermind this man conceptually cannot understand the opinion that they've issued.   Read their full opinion here. 

Will Cal Coburn Brown Be Executed in Single-Drug Lethal Injection by Washington State Tomorrow, Despite His Mental Illness? Probably.

Much of the American public may believe that the mentally ill are spared capital punishment in this country, because to execute someone suffering from mental illness would be cruel and unusual - and therefore, in violation of our federal constitution. 

And they're wrong.  Dead wrong.

Washington State plans to execute Cal Coburn Brown tomorrow, a man acknowledged to suffer from bipolar disorder.

The mentally ill are executed in the United States.  In fact, right now defense attorneys are fighting hard to stop the execution scheduled tomorrow by the State of Washington of Cal Coburn Brown.  

The governor has denied a clemency request already, tipping her hat to the jury who had the opportunity to consider mental illness during the sentencing phase of Mr. Brown's trial. 

This morning, the United States Supreme Court rejected Cal Coburn Brown's appeal without explanation.  Right now, he has one remaining appeal that is pending, unless the lawyers file something else very, very soon. 

Brown Will Be First in Washington Executed By Single Drug Lethal Injection Method

If Mr. Brown is killed by the State of Washington tomorrow, then he'll be the first person executed in Washington since 2001.  Cal Brown will also be the first Washington Death Row inmate to die by the single-drug lethal injection method, as Washington has joined with Ohio in implementing this new form of execution (over the three-drug cocktail method). 

If you'll remember, it was just last December that Ohio used the single-drug execution method in an execution, when Ohio inmate Kenneth Biros was executed on December 8, 2009.  This single-drug execution method, where a massive dose of one drug is injected, is just the same as the methods used by vets across the country in the euthanasia of dogs and cats.  Surely this analogy suggests how wrong this method is for anyone, much less someone suffering from mental illness. 

Cal Coburn Brown is mentally ill: he has been medicated for bipolar disorder for 16 years.

It is not disputed that Mr. Brown suffers from bipolar disorder, nor is it disputed that he confessed to killing Holly Washa in 1991.  Cal Brown was mentally ill then and now.  However, since 1994, Mr. Brown has been on medication for his condition. 

His suffering of bipolar disorder, so far, has not prevented Cal Coburn Brown from being convicted of capital murder and being sentenced to death for his crime.  Unless something happens fast, a mentally ill man will be executed tomorrow by the State of Washington. 

What is bipolar disorder? 

According to the National Association for the Mentally Ill:

Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a medical illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. These changes may be subtle or dramatic and typically vary greatly over the course of a person’s life as well as among individuals. Over 10 million people in America have bipolar disorder, and the illness affects men and women equally. Bipolar disorder is a chronic and generally life-long condition with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months that often begin in adolescence or early adulthood, and occasionally even in children. Most people generally require some sort of lifelong treatment. While medication is one key element in successful treatment of bipolar disorder, psychotherapy, support, and education about the illness are also essential components of the treatment process.


Ohio Governor Stops Execution of Death Row Inmate Kevin Keith: Is This The Answer for Troy Davis?

Yesterday, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland used his executive power of clemency and stopped the execution of Ohio Death Row inmate Kevin Keith.  In his statement, Governor Strickland states (read it in full here) (emphasis added):

Yet, despite the evidence supporting his guilt and the substantial legal review of Mr. Keith's conviction, many legitimate questions have been raised regarding the evidence in support of the conviction and the investigation which led to it. In particular, Mr. Keith's conviction relied upon the linking of certain eyewitness testimony with certain forensic evidence about which important questions have been raised. I also find the absence of a full investigation of other credible suspects troubling.

Clearly, the careful exercise of a governor's executive clemency authority is appropriate in a case like this one, given the real and unanswered questions surrounding the murders for which Mr. Keith was convicted. Mr. Keith still has appellate legal proceedings pending which, in theory, could ultimately result in his conviction being overturned altogether. But the pending legal proceedings may never result in a full reexamination of his case, including an investigation of alternate suspects, by law enforcement authorities and/or the courts. That would be unfortunate--this case is clearly one in which a full, fair analysis of all of the unanswered questions should be considered by a court. Under these circumstances, I cannot allow Mr. Keith to be executed. I have decided, at this time, to commute Mr. Keith's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Should further evidence justify my doing so, I am prepared to review this matter again for possible further action.

Now, Governor Strickland has been quoted in the press as opining that he personally believes that Kevin Keith is probably guilty for the crimes for which he has been convicted.  Still, Governor Strickland has found that justice is best served by an attitude of better safe than sorry when a man's life is on the line. 

Governor Strickland Demonstrated Bravery in His Clemency Decision

His action yesterday took courage - he halted an execution in the face of public outcry, a Parole Board that had unanimously voted against Mr. Keith, and as he is running for re-election this fall. 

Governor Strickland should be respected for his bravery yesterday - and now, we must ask: what about Georgia's Governor and Troy Davis?

Will Georgia Consider the Mercy Granted to Kevin Keith as Troy Davis Sets on Its Death Row?

Well, things are different in Georgia.  The clemency power sets not with the Governor, but instead with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.  And the Georgia Parole Board already denied Troy Davis' clemency request back in 2008. 

They didn't give any explanation for their decision.  The Georgia Governor apparently has no power to do what the Ohio Governor did, even if he should desire to do so. 

For Troy Davis, Look to the U.S. Supreme Court - Not to Georgia

One might suggest that the United States Supreme Court, in its historical ruling that provided a federal district judge the opportunity to make his own personal review of the evidence against Troy Davis is analogous to the stance taken by Governor Strickland:  maybe the man is guilty, but we need to be sure before we - the State - execute him. 

Judge Moore's determination will be appealed.  The High Court will have Troy Davis back before it, there's not many options left for Mr. Davis at this juncture. 

For Troy Davis, one must ask:  will the United States Supreme Court be as brave as Governor Ted Strickland?  Time will tell. 

California Executions? Is Death Row Really the Target of California's Budget Crunch?

California re-instituted the death penalty in 1978; however, California has not executed anyone since February 2006, when Federal District Judge Jeremy Fogel stayed the execution of Michael Morales based upon Mr. Morales' arguments against lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment. 

Federal Judge Fogel Has a Big Decision to Make

Now, after four years have passed without anyone on Death Row being executed by the state, Attorney General Jerry Brown filed motions before Judge Fogel, fighting for removal of his stay because California "... now has presumptively valid regulations for carrying out lethal injections." 

Included in the State's request was the revelation that California planned to proactively file papers for new execution dates be set for Mr. Morales as well as several other men who set on Death Row (and no longer have any appellate options available to them). 

Judge Fogel is considering Attorney General Brown's request.  Part of his consideration has to be not only the new lethal injection procedures that California has in place, but the new death chamber located at San Quentin facility -- together, do they resolve his prior concerns about the unconstitutionality of the California execution procedure? 

State Judge Adams Stands Firm: No Executions Until She Rules

California's Marin County Superior Court Judge Verna Adams has a say here, as well, and she's not dancing with Jerry Brown.  Yesterday, Judge Adams affirmed that the Order she issued in 2007, halting executions by lethal injection until new state regulations could be adopted, remains in effect. 

She has not changed that 2007 Order, and Judge Adams reaffirms that until she issues another court order, her 2007 Order remains in effect.  No executions until she says so. 

Attorney General Jerry Brown reports that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has asked him to appeal Judge Adams since new regulations became effective on Monday. 

Death Warrants Issued Despite State Judge and Federal Judge 

Regardless of both a federal judge and a state judge, the State of California has started issuing death warrants.  Albert Greenwood Brown was the first Death Row inmate in over four years to get a death warrant, notification that the State has scheduled his execution for September 29, 2010. 

The Department of Corrections has told the media that Mr. Morales and five other men should be receiving their death warrants soon. 

California Death Row May Prove a Failed Strategy for Many

California has lots of folk sitting on its Death Row right now.  In fact, we've written about how some California defendants actually prefer a sentence of death these days, because they live in better conditions on Death Row than they might face with a standard life sentence.  Knowing that California was not executing anyone, savvy defendants were asking for capital punishment as a strategic decision on how their future days would be spent. 

Billy Joe Johnson's request for a death sentence (which was granted) has made the national news, shining a spotlight upon the advantages of California Death Row.  Death Row residents get single cells (they don't have to share a cell); their cells are bigger; they get more phone calls; they get to go outside every day, over the lunch hour; and more

California Is Broke: Is Money the Elephant in the Room Here? 

We've had several guest posts here discussing the California budget crisis and the amount of money that could be saved if California were to take the death penalty off its books.  Millions of dollars are at issue here, in a state that is known to be strapped for cash. 

Is it a coincidence that suddenly, in an election year, executions are on the fast track in California?  Or is money the real reason that after four years, death warrants are suddenly being issued for executions within 30 days time -- curious isn't it? 

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