The future of capital punishment in California could be determined by the outcome of a federal court hearing in San Jose. Earlier this year, lawyers for death-row inmate Michael Morales succeeded in getting his execution postponed by challenging the methods California uses to put condemned prisoners to death.
In court this week, Morales' attorneys will argue that those methods are "cruel and unusual" because inmates endure agonizing, torturous deaths. The state will outline how it's changing the way it administers lethal injections to reduce the risk of pain and suffering.
Like many other states, California uses a three-drug cocktail to first sedate, then paralyze, and finally stop the inmate's heart. All three drugs are administered through long intravenous tubes from another room.
Lawyers for the state argue that California's lethal-injection protocol is humane.
Whatever the outcome of this hearing, it is likely to resonate in other states where lethal injections are being challenged.