Friday, August 27, 2010

Kentucky’s Baze Gets Unlikely Execution Delay

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear set a September 16 execution date for convicted rapist and murderer Gregory L. Wilson. At the same time he held off signing two other death warrants because there is a shortage of a key drug used in executions.

Wilson was sentenced October 31, 1988, to die for his part in the 1987 kidnapping and murder of Deborah Pooley a year earlier in Kenton County in Northern Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from her hometown of Hamilton, Ohio.

Beshear selected Wilson's case from among three recommended for execution warrants by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway because it was the oldest.

Requests for execution dates are pending for Ralph Baze, convicted of killing a sheriff and a deputy in 1992, and Robert Carl Foley, convicted in 1993 and 1994 of killing six people in two incidents.

Beshear said the state has only enough sodium thiopental for one execution. Sodium thiopental is a powerful anesthetic that is used as part of a lethal three drug cocktail administered intravenously during executions. Kentucky's new supply of the drug isn't expected until early 2011.

The Ralph Baze being temporarily spared is the same Ralph Baze who gained notoriety when he unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of lethal injection. In Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008), the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of Baze and Thomas Bowling, who were on Kentucky’s death row. They argued that executing them by lethal injection would violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. On April 16, 2008 the Court rejected the challenge thereby upholding Kentucky's method of lethal injection. The Court’s decision also ended a de facto moratorium that had been imposed when the court took up the case.

Ironically, Baze is now being kept alive by an inadequate supply of the very drugs he unsuccessfully challenged. At least 100 offenders have been executed nationwide since the court ruled on Baze’s challenge in 2008.

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