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Marin County Judge Strikes Down Lethal Injection Procedure

SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) -- A Marin County Superior Court judge on Friday struck down California's three-drug lethal injection procedure, ruling it was in violation of state law.

Sara Eisenberg, the attorney for Death Row inmate Michael Sims who challenged the procedure, said Judge Faye D'Opal's ruling after a hearing in Marin County Superior Court on Friday upheld her tentative ruling on Thursday.

In that ruling, D'Opal said the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation didn't adequately explain why it rejected a one-drug lethal injection procedure that used a barbiturate as recommended by one of the department's experts.

"Today the court struck down California's three-drug lethal injection protocol because it was enacted in violation of California law," Eisenberg said.

"Executions cannot resume in California until the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation complies with the required administrative procedures, including assuring meaningful public participation in the rule making process, rather than shortcoming those procedures as it did with the three-drug protocol the court invalidated today," Eisenberg said.

Executions in California have been on hold since January 2006 because of state and federal court procedural challenges to the lethal injection procedure.

A federal lawsuit by condemned inmate Michael Morales alleges the state's three-drug lethal injection procedure constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The case is pending in San Jose and is not expected to be heard until late 2012.

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not return a request for comment Friday afternoon. The CDCR can appeal D'Opal's ruling or change the lethal injection procedure after receiving public comment.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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