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Death Penalty Focus last month recognized Jenner & Block Partner Richard P. Steinken and Associate Ginger D. Anders for their work on behalf of a Death Row client, Richard Morales, in which they are challenging the constitutionality of California’s lethal injection procedure. Mike Farrell, President of the DPF, singled out and saluted Mr. Steinken and Ms. Anders during the DPF's 16th Annual Awards Dinner, along with California attorneys David A. Senior and John R. Grele, calling their efforts in the nationally-watched case "heroic."
Mr. Steinken and Ms. Anders represent Mr. Morales, who has argued that California’s injection procedure lack the necessary safeguards to ensure that condemned inmates are properly sedated prior to the administration of the lethal chemicals involved in lethal injection.
In February 2006, the attorneys helped obtain a stay of execution for the client, who was sentenced to death for a 1981 murder, after convincing the district court that there were "substantial questions" regarding the constitutionality of California’s execution protocol.
After a four-day evidentiary hearing and a visit to the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison, in December of 2006, a federal judge ruled that California’s system for carrying out lethal injections violates the constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
In the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel agreed that the current procedure was "intolerable" and that the evidence was "more than adequate to establish a constitutional violation." The court urged the Governor’s Office to take the opportunity to address the "significant problems" with the procedure and its implementation of lethal injection.
Meanwhile, the California Governor this week proposed new procedures for lethal injections that allegedly will rectify the court’s findings. According to published reports, the state plans to adjust the doses of the chemicals used during the process, train prison staff more efficiently, and construct larger, better-lighted chambers designed specifically for lethal injection executions.
However, the Firm’s team plans to challenge the new rules in court. Ms. Anders was quoted on May 15 in the L.A. Times saying, "The protocol still fails to conform to the standards for euthanasia of animals established by the American Veterinary Medical Assn. and does not meaningfully address the problems described by Judge Fogel."
In addition to Mr. Steinken and Ms. Anders, the Jenner & Block team of attorneys on this matter included Associate Stephanie L. Reinhart.
Death Penalty Focus is a non-profit organization "dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment through grassroots organizing, research, and the dissemination of information about the death penalty and its alternatives."