Michael Morales execution postponed indefinitely

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

The execution of Michael Morales, convicted in 1983 of the murder of Terri Winchell, has been postponed indefinitely because San Quentin State Prison (California) could not comply with a federal court's order that his execution be supervised by licensed medical personnel.

Morales was originally scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. on February 21, 2006, but the execution was postponed until 7:30 p.m. that evening after two anesthesiologists assigned to participate in the execution withdrew on ethical grounds. The anesthesiologists were originally asked to participate in compliance with an order by a federal judge.

In his February 14 ruling on a motion by Morales's lawyers, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel required that either Morales should die of a lethal dose of barbiturates instead of the standard three drug combination used in lethal injection, or that two anesthesiologists should be on hand to ensure that Morales would feel no pain from the two drugs that caused paralysis and heart failure. Fogel also ruled that the barbiturates should be administered by a licensed medical professional.

Prison officials could not find a medical professional willing to administer the single-drug lethal injection.