A loyal reader informs me that Federal District Judge Aleta Trauger in Tennessee has ruled in favor of death row inmate Edward Harbison's challenge to that state's lethal injection procedure. I understand that Judge Trauger cited the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruling in Taylor v. Crawford -- which upheld the constitutionality of Missouri's lethal injection procedure. Judge Trauger stated that Tennessee had chosen not to adopt safeguards that are part of the Missouri protocol. Tennessee is in the Sixth Circuit, and the case will likely be appealed to that court.
In so holding, the Eighth Circuit relied on the following provisions included in the Missouri protocol:
The protocol requires medical personnel to confirm that the IV lines are working properly both before and during the procedure and to attach and monitor an electrocardiograph during the execution procedure. Medical personnel must supervise the injection of the contents of the syringes by department employees.Before the second and third chemicals are injected, medical personnel must examine the prisoner physically to confirm that he is unconscious using standard clinical techniques and must inspect the catheter site again.
Judge Trauger also cited the California federal court LI ruling in Morales:
These cases demonstrate that, although lethal injection is the most prevalent form of execution, it is not sacrosanct, and that the constitutionality of a three-drug protocol is dependant on the merits of that protocol. Where protocols provide for safeguards to ensure that the inmate is unconscious before the admission of potentially painful drugs, courts have held that they do not violate the Eighth Amendment. See, e.g., Taylor, 487 F.3d at 1084-85. However, where the protocols do not provide for such safeguards and, instead, contain “critical deficiencies,” an Eighth Amendment claim is proven. See, e.g., Morales, 465 F. Supp. 2d at 979.
I'll be adding a post with news coverage as it becomes available.