Federal Judge to tour new San Quentin death chamber

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A federal judge who halted executions in California four years ago said Friday he’ll inspect the state’s new death chamber in early February. The tour of the facility at San Quentin is the first part of a larger review of California’s execution methods.

US District Judge Jeremy Fogel told attorneys for California’s Department of Corrections that “it would help the court in thinking about the issues arising in this case to see the facilities.”

Four years ago Fogel found severe deficiencies in California’s death chamber at San Quentin. He said the cramped and dimly lit facility prevented execution teams from properly monitoring inmates —subjecting them to excruciating pain. Fogel also listed inadequate training of execution teams and shoddy oversight of those teams as two more reasons California should temporarily halt executions.

The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has since adopted a revised execution process and built a new death chamber at San Quentin. Judge Fogel wants to see the facilities in the first two weeks of February before he sets a timeline for a full evidentiary hearing on California’s new execution process.

Fogel said, “It’s important to me that we keep this case moving quickly, but not so quickly that we don’t do things carefully.”