Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Death Row inmates say lethal injection violates drug laws

Death Row inmates say lethal injection violates drug laws

Associated Press Writer

Three Kentucky Death Row inmates sued the state a second time claiming that lethal injection violates federal laws because a doctor doesn't obtain or administer the drugs.

The inmates claim in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Frankfort that the federal Controlled Substances Act and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act require a doctor to buy and prescribe sodium thiopental, a controlled substance used in lethal injections. Trained corrections staff administer drugs at executions in Kentucky.

Inmates Thomas Clyde Bowling, Ralph Stevens Baze and Jeffrey DeVan Leonard also are asking for an injunction barring the state from using sodium thiopental unless a licensed doctor administers it.

American Medical Association guidelines bar doctors from taking part, directly or indirectly, in executions. Kentucky requires doctors to follow AMA ethical guidelines.

A federal judge dismissed a previous lawsuit by the men saying they needed to challenge the drugs through the prison grievance system. The Kentucky Department of Corrections rejected the grievance, saying nothing about the way the drugs are obtained or used violates federal law.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away a similar challenge by inmates in 1985. The inmates argued that the Food and Drug Administration had not approved the drugs used in lethal injection for use on humans and that the agency was not enforcing a ban on the chemicals' use. The high court ruled the FDA has a right not to enforce regulations.

Bowling and Baze, who also challenged lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment in a 2004 lawsuit, have received several stays of execution because of the court challenges. Leonard is on his final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kentucky has not declared a moratorium on executions but has not scheduled any since the 2004 lawsuit.

Bowling was sentenced to death for killing Edward and Tina Earley and shooting their 2-year-old son outside the couple's Lexington dry-cleaning business in 1990.

Baze was convicted of killing Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett and deputy Arthur Briscoe during an attempted arrest in 1992. His appeals are finished. His attorney, David Barron, said the state could set an execution date soon.

Leonard, who is also known as James Earl Slaughter, was condemned to death for the January 1983 murder of Esther Stewart who owned a consignment store in Louisville.

Kentucky has 40 death-row inmates, including 11 that have been there for more than two decades. The state has executed two men since reinstating the death penalty in 1976, and only one by injection: Eddie Lee Harper in 1999.

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