US judge says inmates should take lethal-injection challenge to prison officials first
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky: A federal judge turned away a challenge to Kentucky's lethal injection method Thursday, saying three death-row inmates first must file a grievance with prison administrators.
The inmates claimed Kentucky violated federal laws when buying one of the three execution drugs.
The drug, sodium thiopental, is a controlled substance, and federal law requires a doctor to buy and prescribe it. The state does not make public its execution protocol — including who purchases the drug for the state's use.
Questions about whether lethal injection is inhumane have put executions on hold in nine U.S. states — Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota. Illinois is in the seventh year of its moratorium on executions, and executions are effectively halted in New York because of a 2004 court ruling.
Kentucky requires doctors to follow American Medical Association guidelines that bar doctors from taking part, directly or indirectly, in executions.
If inmates Thomas Clyde Bowling, Ralph Baze and Jeffrey DeVan Leonard file a grievance in the prison system, Department of Corrections administrators would rule on its merits.
If the grievance fails, U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell left the door open for the inmates to refile their challenge in federal court.