Judge orders temporary halt to Mississippi executions

26 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Federal Judge Suspends Executions in Mississippi.

A federal judge temporarily stopped executions in Mississippi on Tuesday at the request of two Death Row inmates who say the state’s lethal injection protocol is “chemical torture.” The state Executioner’s Office immediately filed an appeal of U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate’s temporary injunction declaring that the state can’t use pentobarbital or midazolam — both of them deployed to render prisoners unconscious — in its three-drug lethal cocktail.

In any event, they said, pentobarbital doesn’t meet the state’s own standard of an “ultra short-acting barbiturate or other similar drug.” If the inmate isn’t sufficiently anesthetized, they argued, “the chemical paralytic agent and potassium chloride used as the second and third drugs will cause conscious suffocation and intense internal burning.” Mississippi, like several other states, has had difficulty conducting executions because of a nationwide shortage of pentobarbital and legally acceptable substitutes. Although the Supreme Court has not responded to that request, Wingate is presiding over a federal lawsuit filed by Jordan and another death row inmate alleging that the combination of drugs Mississippi has been using in lethal injections could cause them great pain before killing them, violating the constitutional mandate against cruel and unusual punishment.

Jordan’s attorneys at the MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans had asked Wingate to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the setting of an execution date until he rules on the lawsuit. In January, Ohio scrapped its new combination of midazolam and hydromorphone after an inmate appeared to gasp for air during the 26 minutes it took him to die.

Jordan was convicted of fatally shooting 33-year-old Edwina Marter shortly after kidnapping her for $50,000 ransom in Gulfport, Mississippi, on Jan. 12, 1976. But evidence demonstrated that she was kneeling in front of Jordan when he shot her in the back of the head in northern Harrison County, Mississippi, prosecutors said.

The suit questions whether Mississippi could safely mix an effective form of the anesthetic pentobarbital, the first of three drugs used in the state’s lethal injections. On July 28, Mississippi’s Department of Corrections notified Wingate that it was amending its lethal-injection protocol to use the anesthetic midazolam as the first drug, which the U.S.

He said midazolam is not even a barbiturate. “It breaks all of our hearts, all these years, that (Jordan) hasn’t left the picture,” Marter’s sister, Norma de Gruy Wells, 73, of Metairie, said recently. “He’s in the picture.

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