Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Ky. to stick with 3-drug execution protocol

Associated Press Writer

Kentucky plans to keep using a three-drug cocktail on death row inmates and won't use Ohio's novel one-drug overdose method, as officials work through legal hurdles so executions can resume in the state.

Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin told The Associated Press on Monday that the current protocol will be put through public hearings as the state seeks to comply with a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling.

"We're filing to put our existing protocol into place," Brislin said.

The state's high court ruled 4-3 last month that Kentucky didn't properly adopt it's lethal injection protocol and barred any executions until the method was redone. The ruling didn't challenge the technique that has passed U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny and is used by dozens of other states. State officials will not appeal that ruling.

Kentucky injects condemned inmates with sodium thiopental, a fast-acting sedative; pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis; and potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest.

Ohio is expected to become on Tuesday the first state to use an overdose of a single drug to execute an inmate, 51-year-old Kenneth Biros.

Ohio switched to a single-drug procedure after the botched execution of Romell Broom that was halted by Gov. Ted Strickland in September. Executioners tried for two hours to find a usable vein for injection, painfully hitting bone and muscle in as many as 18 needle sticks. Broom, 53, has appealed the state's attempt to try again.

Kentucky's process for approving the lethal injection protocol includes a public hearing as well as a chance for the public to comment by e-mail or letter about different aspects of the protocol.

The Department of Corrections then can respond to those comments. Various legislative committees can review the protocol, though it's ultimately up to Gov. Steve Beshear to re-adopt the procedure.

Courts around the country have split over whether states should have to follow the administrative procedures in adopting a lethal injection protocol. Courts in Maryland, Nebraska and California have found that the administrative procedures requirement applies to lethal injection, while courts in Missouri and Tennessee ruled that it doesn't.

Kentucky's three-drug protocol also is under attack in federal court by five inmates who are challenging the protocol, the practice of giving Valium to inmates before an execution and how the state acquires the drugs used.

Kentucky has 35 death row inmates. The state has executed three men since reinstating the death penalty in 1976, most recently in November 2008.

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