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California execution delayed after doctors refuse to participate over ethics concerns

[JURIST] The execution of Michael Angelo Morales [NCADP profile], scheduled to take place just after midnight Tuesday morning, was delayed after the two anesthesiologists on hand to ensure that Morales would not suffer excessive pain during the process refused to participate due to ethical concerns. Morales, convicted in 1983 of murdering a 17 year old girl, had argued that the chemical cocktail to be used in his lethal injection violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment found in the Eighth Amendment [text]. US District Judge Jeremy Fogel [official profile] last week ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that California must change the drugs it uses when executing prisoners, and the Ninth Circuit on Sunday approved the presence of a doctor [ruling, PDF; JURIST report] to ensure that Morales would be unconscious during the execution.

Morales' death warrant must be exercised by 11:59 PM Tuesday or state officials will have to seek a new execution order from the trial judge. If the state is unable to find a doctor willing to participate in the execution, it is unclear whether they will be able to secure a second death warrant. Judge Charles McGrath, the original sentencing judge, joined Morales in a request for clemency [LA Times report] from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website], citing a lack of credibility of a San Quentin State Prison [official website] informant whose testimony helped secure the death penalty verdict. Schwarzenegger denied the clemency request [statement, PDF] late last week. AP has more.

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