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Death Chamber Ready, If Calif. Moratorium Lifted

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Death Chamber Ready, If Calif. Moratorium Lifted

Law

Death Chamber Ready, If Calif. Moratorium Lifted

Death Chamber Ready, If Calif. Moratorium Lifted

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A federal judge in California is expected to rule Friday on whether to lift a moratorium on lethal injections. If he does, the state could execute its first inmate in nearly five years as early as next week. This week prison officials unveiled a new lethal injection facility.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And this week, state prison officials gave journalists a tour. Scott Shafer of member station KQED went along.

SCOTT SHAFER: The execution chamber is hardly plush or even comfortable. In fact, it's downright austere.

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SAM ROBINSON: What you're looking at, Scott, is our Infusion Control Room.

SHAFER: Lieutenant Sam Robinson is the public information officer at San Quentin.

ROBINSON: And it's actually where our execution team facilities infusing the inmate with a lethal cocktail to facilitate an execution.

SHAFER: On the wall of the Infusion Control Room are four holes, where I.V. lines will pass through into another room where condemned inmates will spend their final minutes of life.

ROBINSON: The drugs flow out of the infusion room into the lethal injection facility, into the inmate.

SHAFER: Lt. Robinson says this gleaming new facility - while stark - addresses the judge's concerns.

ROBINSON: There's a primary witness area for our media witnesses and the 12 official witnesses. There's a witnessing area for people related to the victim, and there's a witnessing area for people who are related to the inmate who's being executed.

SHAFER: To some it's hard to imagine an execution being humane. But California Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton says the new lethal injection regulations were adopted after lots of public input.

TERRY THORNTON: So it is something that people care about. And they took time to read the draft regulations and supply comment, and we incorporated many of those changes in this whole process.

SHAFER: But that doesn't satisfy Lance Lindsey, executive director of Death Penalty Focus, a long time opponent of capital punishment. Lindsey suggests the state is rushing this next execution for political reasons.

LANCE LINDSEY: We're not investing in real public safety solutions. We're investing in what basically is a political solution that serves no social purpose.

SHAFER: For NPR News I'm Scott Shafer in San Francisco.

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