Thursday, 25 January 2007

Inmates claim lethal injection violates federal drug laws

Inmates claim lethal injection violates federal drug laws

(LOUISVILLE) -- Three Kentucky Death Row inmates claim in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that lethal injection violates federal laws because a doctor doesn't obtain or administer the drugs.

The inmates claim the federal Controlled Substances Act and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act require a doctor to buy and prescribe sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs used in an execution.

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

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., said the inmates are using a different tactic than most to challenge lethal injection.

"This is untested because the death penalty is so unique," Dieter said. "The death penalty is the only place where we use drugs to kill people."

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Frankfort is the latest by Death Row inmates Thomas Clyde Bowling, Ralph Stevens Baze and Jeffrey DeVan Leonard. Bowling and Baze challenged lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment in a 2004 lawsuit. 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 and Baze have received several stays of execution because of the court challenges.

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.

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.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-01-24-07 1302EST

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