Wednesday, February 11, 2004

As you know the Kevin Cooper execution was put on hold last night. All the justice delayed is justice denied stuff aside, here is an informative article from Sunday's Sac Bee. Our favorite...state law forces the guards to play checkers or chess with the condemned man.
Killer's execution will go by the book
He's saying his farewells as state follows checklist for a lethal injection.

Sometime Monday, a San Quentin prison lieutenant will carefully count out six syringes - a lethal dose - of medicine and put them in a locked box, which he will stow in a special locker until they can be delivered at about midnight into the veins of killer Kevin Cooper.

There are three syringes of Pavulon to stop Cooper's breathing and three more of potassium chloride to stop his heart. He only needs two of each to die, but prison officials want no mistakes, and execution protocol requires a spare.

Cooper, California prison inmate No. C65304, has been waiting since Wednesday in an isolation cell to become the 11th man put to death since executions resumed in this state in 1992. He will be the ninth to die from lethal injection, a method prison officials have used since 1996 after federal appellate judges ruled gassing inmates to death constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

A handpicked team of executioners will hand Cooper his ultimate fate shortly after midnight, barring a last-minute stay from the state Supreme Court, a federal appellate court or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who already has denied him clemency, calling the evidence against him "overwhelming."

Long before that, the prison's warden and execution team will begin a carefully choreographed march toward San Quentin's famed apple-green execution chamber, according to instructions laid out in a confidential prison protocol, labeled simply "procedure 770."

Since Wednesday, when Cooper was removed from his cell on death row, he has been having daily visits with friends and legal and spiritual advisers. After each visit, he is strip-searched, assigned new clothing and returned to his execution holding cell, where guards are checking him every 60 minutes to ensure he doesn't commit suicide before the state can put him to death.

Cooper, who was sentenced to die in 1985 for hacking to death two adults and two children on an Arabian horse ranch in Chino Hills, will be familiar with at least some of the preliminary measures because he has been on death row during every execution since they resumed in 1992.

But since Cooper's removal from his death row cell, he has been in unfamiliar territory. He may play checkers or chess - procedure 770 requires a correctional officer to play the games with him if he wants - and may choose to watch television or visit with family members, friends or a spiritual adviser. Coffee and fresh fruit are available upon request.

At 6 p.m. Monday, Cooper must say his last goodbyes to friends and his legal and spiritual advisers. Then, officials will strip-search him again and bring him to a death watch cell outside the octagonal execution chamber, where three correctional officers will watch him constantly.

A state chaplain and the warden may visit him there, where he has the option of reading, watching television or listening to the radio. There, he will receive his last meal, if he chooses one. Cooper has declined to ask for a last meal. As midnight approaches, Cooper will be offered Valium to calm his nerves.

The execution team will consist of more than a dozen officials, at least some of whom will have medical training and several of whom have participated in executions before. In preparation for the execution, they have been training daily, running through each procedure to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Procedure 770 specifies exactly what they must do and when. A list of 56 specific supplies fills more than two pages: There must be 16 rolls of adhesive tape in three different widths, a flashlight and three spare flashlight batteries in case of power failure, two wall clocks, six pairs of surgical gloves in two different sizes, five packages of paper towels.

Then, moments before midnight, as many as 50 witnesses will be ushered into a viewing room facing the death chamber. Cooper is allowed five witnesses and two spiritual advisers, and prison officials say all seven spots are expected to be filled.

The attorney general has one spot, prison staffers will claim four, there will be 12 unnamed official witnesses and nine witnesses and observers related to Cooper's victims. Among them is expected to be Joshua Ryen, now 28, who was eight when Cooper slit his throat and left him to die next to the body of his mother, father, sister and best friend. Seventeen media witnesses also will watch the execution.

At midnight, Cooper will be led into the chamber, where he will climb onto a white-padded table and be strapped down. Two catheters carrying saline solution will be inserted into Cooper's veins, in case one vein or catheter becomes clogged with poison during the procedure.

Then, on the warden's cue, a drip of sodium pentothal will be administered to relax Cooper, followed by the Pavulon, or pancuronium bromide, to stop his breathing, and then the potassium chloride to still his heart.

After a dozen or more minutes, a doctor will pronounce him dead, and the witnesses will file out.