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California Ordered to Cut Inmate Numbers: SF Gate writer Bob Egelko reports on the state of the California prison system.  Yesterday, a federal court panel ordered the Schwarzenegger administration to lower California's prison population by more than 40,000 within two years to lessen overcrowding and improve health care.  The three-judge panel said its order, the first to require the administration to meet a deadline, was compelled by the state's "long-standing failure to provide constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care." The panel noted that the administration had already proposed to meet the goal by sending fewer minor offenders to prison.  Schwarzenegger's spokesman, Aaron McLear, however, had this to say: "We will fight any decision that orders early release and endangers public safety." McLear said the state expects the Supreme Court to hear its appeal and decide whether judges can issue orders that compel prisoner release.  The Supreme Court will consider on Friday, January 15th, whether to accept the appeal and set the case for full briefing and argument.

Ohio Executions Challenged Again: New York Times writer Ian Urbina reports on several court filings against the state contending that Ohio prison officials have shown a consistent disregard for their own rules in carrying out executions.  These include failing to ensure that execution staff members attend required rehearsals and training.  Lawyers for other death row inmates said they hoped to stop all executions in Ohio until the state's execution protocols were brought up to constitutional standards and there were better guarantees that those protocols would be followed.  In a 2008 ruling upholding the three-drug cocktail Kentucky used in executions, the Supreme Court rejected the claim that it posed an unconstitutional risk of a condemned inmate's suffering acute yet undetectable pain.  Allen L. Bohnert, a death row lawyer in Ohio, said the decision by the Supreme Court on the method's constitutionality was based on the faulty assumption that states followed protocol, when in Ohio, he said, that was proving not to be true.

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