When Caryl Chessman died in California's gas chamber 50 years ago — probably the state's most notorious execution — 18 inmates were left on death row. Today, there are 702.
The last execution at San Quentin State Prison was that of Clarence Ray Allen on Jan. 17, 2006, the 13th in California since 1978.
Since that day, at least 205 convicts have been executed in other states, 24 death row inmates at San Quentin have died from natural causes or suicide, and 83 people have been sentenced to death in California courts.
But no one has been executed in California since Allen. That's largely because of two court challenges over the state's lethal injection methods and its attempt to short-circuit the procedure for revising those methods.
Now corrections officials hope they are on the verge of winning approval of their rewritten lethal injection rules, which will give the rules the force of law.
That approval, due by Friday, will reignite a pending legal battle over whether California can rejoin 34 other states that have the death penalty, and whether it should.
Supporters and opponents say the likelihood of executions resuming anytime soon in California is slight.
"I've just kind of lost faith in the system, that it's ever going to work," said Barbara Christian, a 72-year-old Wilton woman whose daughter, Terri Lynn Winchell, was savagely raped and murdered 29 years ago when she was 17. "I'd like to see justice for my daughter."
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