Sunday, September 26, 2010

California to Resume Executions

State Constructs New $853,000 Death Chamber at San Quentin

California has scheduled an execution for next week. The state's death chamber has remained dormant for the past four years. Since 2006, California has revised its execution protocol, provided extensive training for its execution team, and constructed a $853,000 death chamber at San Quentin according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

California has a long and curious relationship with the death penalty. The Union-Tribune revealed that history recently, noting that the state began executing inmates in 1851 under the jurisdictions of counties. The first state-conducted execution was in 1893.

Lethal gas replaced hanging as the method of execution in 1937. The state’s lone gas chamber was built in San Quentin, where 194 people, including four women, ultimately were put to death.

Executions were halted in 1967 and the moratorium lasted for the next 25 years as legal challenges were made in state and federal courts.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the death penalty was unconstitutional. The state Legislature re-enacted the death penalty statute in 1977 and California voters approved a proposition on the issue in 1978.

There were not executions until 1992, when Robert Alton Harris was put to death in the San Quentin gas chamber.

In 1993, death-row inmates were given the choice of lethal injection or the gas chamber. Three years later, the first inmate was put to death by lethal injection.

Legal challenges halted the practice in 2006 when a condemned inmate claimed it was cruel and unusual punishment. In response, state officials revamped procedures for capital punishment and rebuilt the death chamber at San Quentin.

Albert Greenwood Brown is scheduled to be executed Wednesday. According to the Union-Tribune, Brown had been on parole for a previous rape conviction when he attacked, raped and strangled Susan Jordan with one of her shoelaces. He took her schoolbooks and student identification card, left her body in the dirt and went to work cleaning cars.

That evening, as Susan’s family searched for her, Brown called the family home several times, according to prosecutors. He asked the girl’s mother, “Susie isn’t home from school yet, is she?” and eventually told her where the body could be found.

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