Tennessee judge upholds lethal injection process, says inmates didn’t prove …

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Judge hears arguments on Montana’s lethal injection method.

NASHVILLE — Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled Wednesday afternoon that the state’s lethal injection protocol is constitutional, a major decision in the battle over capital punishment in Tennessee that has lasted for years.Judge Jeffrey Sherlock says he will decide Thursday whether to rule on the state’s use of the sedative pentobarbital based on the hearing or move the case to a full trial Sept. 2.

Bonnyman said a group of condemned inmates and their attorneys did not prove during trial that the protocol creates risk of cruel and unusual harm, which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Representatives for the ACLU said in their trial briefing that this case is not meant to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty, rather it concerns the protocol used by the executioners. She also noted it is the same drug effectively used in Oregon and Washington death with dignity cases, when terminally ill patients choose to take the drug to end their lives. Supreme Court case known as Baze, which upheld Kentucky’s lethal injection procedures, set the standard that an isolated mishap — including physician error — did not create an Eighth Amendment violation.

Immediately following the ruling, Assistant Federal Public Defender Kelley Henry, who represented some of the inmates, asked what the deadline for an appeal would be. More than 30 inmates on death row filed a lawsuit saying the Tennessee Department of Correction protocol to kill inmates using lethal injection of a single drug was unconstitutional. At trial in July, the inmates’ attorneys said the protocol did not explain how to carry out executions and allowed for untrained people to participate.

In 2010, she heard a case challenging Tennessee’s previous method of execution — which involved three drugs for lethal injection — and declared it unconstitutional on grounds it “allows for death by suffocation while conscious.” A year later, she approved the state’s proposal that actions such as shaking an inmate were adequate to determine if procedures were effective.

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