"Death row inmates challenge lethal injection drug," is Brendan Farrington's AP report, via the Bradenton Herald.
Death row inmates are seeking to stop the use of a new drug mix Florida is using in lethal injections, asking federal courts Tuesday to declare the procedure unconstitutional.
The claims say use of the sedative midazolam hydrochloride won't prevent excruciating pain and suffering when the next two drugs are administered. Use of the mix would be a form of cruel and unusual punishment, thus violating the condemned prisoner's right, according to the complaints.
Florida used the new mix during the execution of William Happ on Oct. 15. It was the first time it was used in an execution and Happ didn't file any appeals challenging its use. It appeared to an Associated Press reporter that it took longer for Happ to lose consciousness than others who have been executed under the previous drug mix, which used pentobarbital to render prisoners unconscious before drugs that induce paralysis and cardiac arrest are administered.
Seven death row inmates are challenging the new procedure in U.S. District Courts in Jacksonville, Ocala, Tampa and Orlando. The inmates had previously sued to stop the previous lethal injection drug mix and filed amended complaints to reflect the new procedures.
"Midazolam is not intended for use as an anesthetic," the suit said, adding that it is typically used to sedate patients before anesthesia is administered. "Its use in this context is wholly untested."
Reuters posts, "Florida death row inmates challenge execution drug."
Seven Florida death row inmates on Tuesday sued the state, saying a new three-step lethal injection procedure could inflict "cruel and unusual punishment" and called on a court to halt executions until the procedure is reviewed.
Florida is the latest of several states facing a shortage of pentobarbital, a barbiturate that has long been the first of three drugs administered in executions. Supplies of pentobarbital have fallen because its manufacturer has clamped down on sales of the drug for executions, prison officials said.
Florida recently adopted a new lethal injection protocol that uses the sedative midazolam in a drug cocktail designed to induce unconsciousness, paralysis and death by cardiac arrest.
The lawsuit claims that midazolam, commercially known as Versed, is a drug primarily used in the treatment of anxiety, and is not an anesthetic. Its use in lethal injections is experimental.
Under the cocktail of drugs, lawyers for the inmates allege, prisoners remain aware of their surroundings but are unable to speak or move, and they endure extreme pain.
While several states have shifted toward a safer one-drug procedure, the Florida Department of Corrections "has clung to an out-of-date, error-prone, three-drug protocol," according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville.
"Death Row lawyers challenge use of new Florida execution drug," by Stephen Bousquet for the Tampa Bay Times.
In papers filed in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, attorneys for Death Row inmate Dane Patrick Abdool and several other inmates argue that the new drug could violate the inmates' Eighth Amendment constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment. Two federal judges are scheduled to hear arguments on the matter Nov. 6.
More broadly, the lawsuit claims, Florida's continuing reliance on a three-drug lethal injection mixture is inhumane and "violates the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society encompassed in the Eighth Amendment." The other two drugs, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, are intended to induce paralysis and cardiac arrest.
The lawsuit was filed by Maria DeLiberato and Marie Louise Samuels-Parmer, both affiliated with the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel's office for the middle region, based in Tampa.
"Court Filing Challenges Florida's New Execution Drug," by Jessica Palombo at WFSU-FM. There is audio at the link.
Dane Abdool is on death row for the 2006 burning death of Amelia Sookdeo. Tuesday’s filing asserts Florida’s new execution drug, midazolam, could violate Abdool’s Eighth Amendment freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.
Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno also filed an affidavit in the case challenging the state’s replacement of a previous execution drug it ran out of.
“It’s like going to your kitchen cupboard trying to look for something to prepare for your next meal and just looking for anything," Denno says.
Midazolam has been used in one execution this month, and reporters who witnessed it say the prisoner moved more than people had in previous executions—suggesting he might have been conscious long enough to feel pain.
Earlier coverage of Florida lethal injection issues, and the Happ execution, begins at the link.