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The ruling was not without critics. Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen, former chairman of the California Board of Prison Terms, issued a statement saying, “The current system needs improvement, but to completely get rid of the death penalty is unconscionable for victims and their families and society.

“Victims and their families need and deserve justice. This ruling denies them and society justice.”

He said Californians have long supported the death penalty, and he urged Attorney General Kamala Harris to “uphold the will of the people” and appeal.

Another federal judge put California’s death penalty on hold in 2006 when he ruled the state’s lethal injection procedures needed overhaul.

The judge found that the state’s procedures created too much risk that an inmate would suffer extreme pain while being executed. At that time, lethal injections were carried out in San Quentin’s old gas chamber, which the judge found too cramped, too dark and too old for prison staff to properly administer execution drugs.

Since then, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has built a new execution chamber on the grounds of San Quentin in Northern California and made changes to its procedures.

A new federal judge has taken over the case and has not ruled on whether those changes are enough for the state to restart executions.

Additionally, the corrections department is drafting a new set of regulations for administering lethal injections. No executions can take place until the new rules are formally adopted.