It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Justice Stephen Breyer said that a medical journal study found that inmates can suffer pain under the three-drug combination and it "doesn't seem too difficult" to alter the medicines.
Justice Antonin Scalia said that if justices allow Florida death row inmate Clarence Hill to pursue claims, that could drag out a case that has already been pending for more than two decades.
Hill, convicted of killing a police officer, was strapped to a gurney with lines running into his arms to deliver the drugs when the Supreme Court in January intervened and blocked the execution.
He claims that the chemicals used in Florida executions and by many other states -- sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride -- can cause excruciating pain. The first drug is a pain killer. The second one paralyzes the inmate and the third causes a fatal heart attack.
Death row inmates have been making Eighth Amendment challenges to lethal injection since 1978. Courts have rejected broad challenges to the constitutionality of lethal injection, as well as claims against specific execution practices, such as the failure to use medical doctors, failure to adequately specify the execution protocol, use of the cut-down procedure to expose a viable vein for injection, and the choice of lethal drugs. New challenges to the lethal cocktail, however, have been bolstered by a growing body of evidence that many prisoners were probably conscious and subject to excruciating pain during their executions, contrary to the claims of state governments and in violation of their right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
Toxicology data from post-execution autopsies, however, shows that in many cases the full dose of sodium thiopental is not getting into the condemned’s bloodstream. Edward Harper was executed in Kentucky in 1999, when Kentucky’s protocol called for two grams of sodium thiopental. (Kentucky recently went to three grams, as a direct response to the pending suit by Bowling and Baze.) Blood analysis showed that Harper had a concentrations of 6.5 milligrams per liter of the barbiturate in a sample drawn from his heart. At such levels a person would have a 67 percent chance of being conscious, according to the data of Dr. Mark Dershwitz, an University of Massachusetts professor of anesthesiology who has testified numerous times on behalf of state governments in similar lethal injection challenges. Blood drawn from elsewhere in Harper’s body showed concentrations of only 3 milligrams per liter, giving a 100 percent chance of consciousness.
The district court denied the motion for preliminary injunction and the Ninth Circuit affirmed (Beardslee v. Woodford, 2005 WL 120140 (9th Cir. 2005)), agreeing that Beardslee had not shown a sufficient likelihood that administration of the sodium thiopental would be improper in his case. The court did admit that the execution log evidence presented by Beardslee, coupled with Heath’s opinions, raised “extremely troubling questions about the protocol,” and was likewise troubled by the state’s complete lack of justification for the use of pancuronium bromide, leaving unchallenged Beardslee’s assertion that it served no purpose other than to hide from observers the agonies of those still conscious.
Spokeswoman Andrea Dean said the execution was delayed about 90 minutes because technicians had trouble initially finding a site in Clark's arm for the intravenous line carrying the chemicals.
Then shortly after the poisons were supposed to have been pumping into his body, she said, he sat up saying, "It's not working. It's not working."
Officials determined that a vein had collapsed. Curtains were closed to block witnesses' view until technicians found a vein in his other arm. They were then parted to reveal him dying, witnesses said.
When this method is used, the condemned person is usually bound to a gurney and a member of the execution team positions several heart monitors on this skin.
Many prisoners have damaged veins resulting from intravenous drug use and it is sometimes difficult to find a usable vein, resulting in long delays while the inmate remains strapped to the gurney.