In October a federal district court judge in California ordered the state to dismantle its gas chamber at San Quentin prison, where almost 200 prisoners had been executed since 1938. Judge Marilyn Hall detailed evidence of dying inmates remaining conscious long enough to experience a pain similar to strangulation or drowning. Meanwhile, executions in other states continued. A Virginia prisoner became the first person to be executed after a conviction based on DNA-matching technology. Arkansas renewed the practice of executing two and three inmates in the same night. And in Illinois, John Wayne Gacy, 52, convicted 14 years earlier in the sex-related killings of 33 young men and boys, was executed by lethal injection in May.
Around the United States state legislatures introduced and passed laws designed to make prisons harsher. In Mississippi, for example, prisoners were denied private televisions, radios, computers, and access to weight-lifting equipment. Starting in 1995 they would have to wear striped uniforms with the word ‘convict’ stamped on the back. Louisiana eliminated martial arts training and California allowed prison authorities to bar obscene publications and materials that incite violence.
In Washington, DC, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that during jury selection defense attorneys and prosecutors could not remove prospective jurors solely because of their sex. The decision extended a protection that eight years before had been granted to African-American jurors in civil and criminal cases.