Man sues state to resume executions

The new lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010. While court righting continues over resumption of California's death penalty, state prison officials conduct a media tour of their refurbished death chamber designed to meet legal requirements. The new facility cost $853,000 and the work was performed by the inmate ward labor program. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
April 19, 2012 8:11:34 PM PDT
A Central Valley man has made it his mission to get executions resumed in California. He's taking legal action to force the Department Of Corrections to take the necessary steps to execute the man who murdered his sister.

"I no longer drive through the city of Lodi with grapevines because I get sick to my stomach," Bradley Winchell said. "I am asking this court to set it right."

Winchell says he's been waiting more than three decades for closure. His sister, Terri, was brutally murdered and raped in 1981 in a Lodi vineyard. Her killer, Michael Morales, sits on San Quentin's death row and is one of 14 inmates who have exhausted all their appeals.

But just as Morales was about to be executed in 2006, a judge granted a reprieve, allowing Morales's lawsuit to move forward after he claimed the three-drug lethal injection method was cruel and unusual punishment.

Winchell just filed a lawsuit of his own saying he's waited long enough; he wants the state to resume executions by moving to a one-drug process currently used in other states.

"I consider 31 years excessive delay, injury not only to myself but my family," Winchell said.

California's death penalty has been criticized for many years. Delays often result in decades passing before an execution is carried out.

"It's a sad state of affairs when those officials with the duty to execute the law care so little about the rights of victims that victims have to sue to force them to do their duty," Criminal Justice Legal Foundation spokesperson Kent Scheidegger said.

Opponents of California's death penalty have trying to get rid of it for years, citing a report that found it costs taxpayers $184 million a year to operate. They say if Winchell and his attorneys want to change the three-drug protocol, they can formally ask the Department Of Corrections.

"If they want to re-write procedure and want to do what the Criminal Just Legal Foundation says, then they need to put that in the procedure, submit it for public comment," Campaign to End the Death Penalty spokesperson Christine Thomas said. "They need to do a hearing and do exactly what they did to set up the three-drug."

Corrections can't comment because it hasn't been served with the lawsuit, but Winchell's attorneys say they've been unsuccessful in trying to the agency use the one drug method.

Winchell thinks the courts are the only way to let his sister rest in peace.

"This will add a little bit of closure if we do get the executions back on track," he said.

Five states in as many years abolished the death penalty. Next week, opponents of the death penalty are expected to announce that they've qualified an initiative to do the same and let California voters decide.


Load Comments