Sunday, February 21, 2010

Louisiana Sues Death Row Inmates Over Lethal Injection

Last month, Louisiana carried out its first execution in eight-years. Gerald Bordelon raped and murdered his step-daughter. He wanted to be executed. If fact, his attorneys purposely delayed filing legal requests in other cases so as not to inadvertently delay Bordelon’s execution.

The day after Bordelon’s execution a Louisiana Court tossed out Nathaniel Code’s suit to halt all executions in the state until the Department of Public Safety and Corrections changed its procedures. Code, of Shreveport, was condemned to die for the 1985 murders of four people. He claims that Louisiana failed to follow proper administrative procedures before putting its lethal injection procedure in place.

Louisiana followed the court’s ruling with an unprecedented action. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the state has filed a counter suit against Code, and 83 other death row inmates, asking the court to formally declare — “once and for all’’ — that the state’s lethal injection protocol is not subject to the Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act. Wade Shows, attorney for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said with regard to disclosing the method of lethal injection,"It’s sort of an internal management decision.’’

Courts in Maryland, Nebraska, California and Kentucky have found that the administrative procedures requirement applies to lethal injection, while courts in Missouri and Tennessee ruled it does not apply. Lethal injection opponents have also argued that the last drug in the three-drug lethal injection protocol may cause excruciating pain, which dying prisoners cannot express because the initial drugs cause paralysis.

My Take

Louisiana’s fight over lethal injection is much ado about nothing. The suggestion that the state must disclose the procedure of lethal injection is spurious. No one suggested after Bordelon’s execution that the state used some mysterious substance to inflict cruel and unusual punishment.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection in Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008). The decision grew out of a challenge to Kentucky's three-drug method of lethal injection. Lawyers for condemned killers Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling asserted that lethal injection violated the Eighth-Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

Last fall, after the botched attempted execution of Romell Broom, Ohio decided to proceed with executions using a single drug. Ohio carries out executions using a lethal dose of anesthetic. The state has carried out three executions using the single dose method.

Lethal injection challenges are intellectually dishonest. No one on death row tells their lawyer, “I want to die, just not by lethal injection.” Right along with every lethal injection argument is a habeas corpus argument challenging the conviction and a request for clemency. Lethal injection challenges merely delay the inevitable.

To read more about Louisiana's law suit visit:

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