After a while, one begins to expect news out of California to set heads wagging in disbelief. Occasionally, though, Californians outdo themselves.

Such, it seems to us, is the case of Michael Morales, who confessed to torturing, raping and murdering his girlfriend in 1983. Morales was set to die by lethal injection this week, but the state of California could find no doctor willing to be on hand to ensure the convicted murderer’s sedative would deaden his pain before he died.

Protocol for these kinds of executions calls for a three-pronged process that starts with an injection of a sedative, followed by a paralytic drug, and heart-stopping chemical. A federal judge intervened in the case and said his concern was that the drug cocktail could mask, rather than eliminate, an inmate’s pain during his execution.

Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union applauded the delay in administering capital punishment. According to the Los Angeles Times, Natasha Minsker, ACLU attorney said, “We think this (delay) is appropriate. There will be a hearing so both sides can present their evidence. It is a serious issue that needs careful consideration.”

We agree it is a serious issue. But it seems bewildering that anything about Morales’ execution requires careful consideration. It is dark irony indeed that concerns itself with delivering a comfortable death to a man whose vicious crime provided the exact opposite to 17-year-old Terri Winchell, his victim.

According to the Times, Morales admits to breaking a belt attempting to strangle Winchell and then striking her repeatedly in the head with a hammer before dragging her across a road into a vineyard, raping her and then stabbing her four times in the chest.

Unlike her killer, Winchell wasn’t presented with a painless death option.

What is equally confounding is how the ACLU, or anyone else, can applaud doctors for refusing to participate in ending a brutal murderer’s life but will cheer when they end the lives of the most defenseless class of all - the innocent, unprotected unborn.

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