Judge turns away lethal injection challenge - for now
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A federal judge turned away a challenge to Kentucky's lethal injection method on Thursday, saying three inmates need to pursue their attack through a state grievance system first.
The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell, at least temporarily stops claims by the inmates that Kentucky violated federal laws when buying one of the three drugs used in an execution.
Federal law requires a doctor to buy and prescribe the drug sodium thiopental, which is considered a controlled substance.
American Medical Association guidelines bar doctors from taking part, directly or indirectly, in executions. Kentucky requires doctors to follow AMA ethical guidelines.
The state purchases the drug, but the execution protocol - including who purchases the drug - is not made public.
Death Row inmates Thomas Clyde Bowling, Ralph Baze and Jeffrey DeVan Leonard sued the state on Jan. 24, saying unless a doctor purchased and prescribed the drug for use in the lethal injection, Kentucky was violating federal laws.
The ruling places the challenge in the state's prison grievance system, where administrators from the Kentucky Department of Corrections will rule on the merits of the complaint.
If the grievance fails, Caldwell left the door open for the inmates to refile their challenge in federal court.