Have we seen the last California execution?

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A judge in Marin has tossed out the current execution protocol, putting all executions in the state on hold -- and potentially delaying any more state-sponsored killing until after November, when the voters will have a chance to end the death penalty for good.

So it may be that this gruesome and pointless farce has come to an end. It may be that California is ready to join the civilized world. It may be that the state is ready to save billions (yes, I said billions) of dollars by replacing death with life without parole. Which is effectively what we have now -- the number one cause of death on Death Row is old age.

State Sen. Mark Leno noted at the San Francisco Tomorrow holiday party Dec. 14 that life without parole "means exactly that" -- since that sentence has been adopted, not one person facing LWOP in California has ever been released. The one exception: People who turned out to be innocent. Fortunately, innocent people serving life sentences can still have a chance.