Saturday, 17 February 2007
Plan riles death row
Attorneys for 2 death row inmates have moved the death penalty debate from
one obscure state agency to another by filing a petition with the N.C.
Office of Administrative Hearings.
The inmates filed a lawsuit challenging the Council of State's approval of
prison officials' plan to have a doctor monitor an inmate's "essential
body functions" during an execution. That plan appears to violate the N.C.
Medical Board's ethics policy that forbids doctors from participating in
an execution in any way beyond being present. That conflict has already
derailed 3 scheduled executions and may halt 2 more scheduled in March.
Last month, a Wake County judge sent the issue to Gov. Mike Easley and the
council, citing a little-known requirement in state law for those leaders
to approve the qualified personnel involved in lethal injections. Once
Easley and the council approved prison officials' proposal, many expected
the issue would end up back in Wake Superior Court.
However, attorneys for death row inmates James Campbell and Jerry Conner
decided to file a petition with the administrative body that typically
hears appeals of fines levied by state agencies or challenges to rules
created by such agencies. The latter is what the inmates are claiming --
that essentially the council didn't abide by its own rules when passing
this new rule.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office could not be reached for
comment late Friday.
Raleigh lawyer Hardy Lewis, who represents the inmates, said the council
failed to give proper notice of its Feb. 6 hearing and allow public
comment on the proposal beforehand.
Instead, the council's agenda was made public 5 days before the hearing
and an inmate's attorney was denied a request to speak. The council only
heard from attorneys for the prison system.
Lewis said the inmates claim the council didn't have the authority to
"enlarge the scope" of a licensed professional. In the petition, the
inmates contend the council did that by requiring doctors to do more than
just be present at the execution.
If the inmates win, Lewis said, "The judge would essentially recommend the
Council of State do right what we've contended they've done wrong."
Lewis said the council could agree and abide by what the administrative
law judge recommends or appeal to Wake Superior Court.
(source: News & Observer)