Kentucky officials signaled Thursday they will change how prisoners are executed, opening the door to using a single drug instead of the current three-drug method that has been challenged by inmates who call it cruel and unusual punishment.
The Kentucky Justice Cabinet filed notice in Franklin Circuit Court that it would propose new regulations by July 24. The single-page motion does not say what changes will be made. The new method could be in place by late summer, allowing Kentucky to begin executions later this year.
Justice Cabinet spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin declined comment.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd in April gave Kentucky 90 days to make changes or face a trial to defend the three-drug method.
Shepherd said if Kentucky adopts a new regulation allowing for a one-drug execution — similar to what is done in Ohio, Arizona and other states — any claims of cruel and unusual punishment by the inmates “will be rendered moot.”
The battle over Kentucky’s lethal injection method has been going on for more than a year and a half. The judge’s ruling and Kentucky’s decision comes just months after the American Bar Association issued a report calling for a moratorium on executions in Kentucky, in part because of the number of cases overturned since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.
At least seven states use a single drug to carry out executions. Three states — Idaho, Washington and South Dakota — give an option to use more than one drug.
In the last week, Missouri became the first state to switch to propofal, the same anesthetic that caused the overdose death of pop star Michael Jackson.
Kentucky’s current method calls for a single drug or combination of drugs. The state last used sodium thiopental, pancurionium bromide and potassium chloride, a combination similar to the one used by Georgia and some other states.
To change the regulations, Kentucky officials must submit to the state a new execution method, which is made public. If a legislative subcommittee does not meet or does not find the regulation deficient within 30 days of publication, the regulation takes effect.
Earlier coverage of Kentucky lethal injection issues begins at the link. Judge Shepherd's order to consider a single drug execution and an order on aspects of the state's Administrative Procedures Act are available in Adobe .pdf format.
Related posts are in the lethal injection category index.
Coverage of the ABA's Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment report is also available.