Dense fog

Judge to tour California's new death chamber at San Quentin in February

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge who halted lethal injections in California over concerns that it was cruel and unusual punishment plans to tour the state's new death chamber in February.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel on Wednesday told attorneys representing a death row inmate who filed a lawsuit and the state attorney general's office that he wants to hold a hearing at San Quentin State Prison sometime in February. Fogel is determining whether the state's new lethal injection procedure is constitutional.

Fogel halted executions in early 2006 and ordered prison officials to improve their lethal injection process. The judge was concerned that staff members were inadequately trained and the death chamber was too small and dark to properly carry out executions.

Fogel wants to view firsthand the improvements prison officials made to the death chamber since then. Fogel wants to hold the hearing and tour sometime between Feb. 2 and Feb. 9 and asked lawyers to propose a hearing date.

The attorney general's office asked for Feb. 9 while attorneys for death row inmate Michael Morales, who filed the lawsuit that led to Fogel's ruling, haven't made any suggestions yet.

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