The News & Observer reports, "North Carolina public safety secretary changes death row execution protocol," by Anne Blythe.
At a time when many states have done away with or are doing away with the death penalty, the Republican-led General Assembly in North Carolina has pushed to restart executions.
This year, the legislature repealed the 2009 Racial Justice Act, which had made it possible for death row inmates to have their sentences converted to life without the possibility for parole if they could show through statistical evidence or otherwise that race had played a prominent role in their sentences.
Despite the legislative action, legal analysts have speculated that existing lawsuits and potential challenges related to the repeal of the Racial Justice Act offer many obstacles to a quick return of executions in North Carolina.
In addition to the court challenges, many polls, both statewide and nationally, show diminishing support for the death penalty.
The new North Carolina protocol calls for a single dose of pentobarbital, a drug used in other states.
"Executions would use one drug, not three," is the AP coverage, via the Rocky Mount Telegram.
The state of North Carolina has said it plans to use one lethal chemical instead of three drugs to execute death row inmates, changing its protocol in a move that could slightly loosen the legal knot that’s delayed carrying out capital punishment for years.
The updated rules signed two weeks ago by Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry describe how workers at Central Prison and the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women would carry out an execution.
The new rules say prison officials will inject into the condemned prisoner a short-acting barbiturate such as pentobarbital, which is frequently used to put animals to death. Previous rules directed a three-drug method - using sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride in succession - but some states with capital punishment have moved away from that approach.
The change is important because lawyers for some North Carolina prisoners argue the three-drug method constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. They cite attorneys who witnessed the bodies of executed prisoners convulsing and jerking shortly before the death. They also said any execution protocols must go through the regular rule-making process within state government. The state disagreed.
A Superior Court judge rejected the prisoners’ arguments, which then went to the state Court of Appeals. The appeals court granted late last week a request by attorneys for the state and some death-row prisoners to delay oral arguments set for Wednesday so they can have time to examine the new rules. The next step in the case now won’t come before early December.
Earlier coverage of the change in North Carolina lethal injection procedures begins at the link.
The North Carolina Execution Protocol is available in Adobe .pdf format.
Related posts are in the lethal injection category index.