In brief: July 2018


Scott Dozier

In Alabama, reports that eight death row prisoners are dropping their lawsuit challenging the state’s three-drug lethal injection method because they have decided to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia, which was approved as an execution method in March. “Because they’ve now opted to die by nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection, their claims in the lawsuit are moot,” says. The story includes a statement by the Federal Defender’s office that the prisoners are reserving the right to challenge the protocol surrounding nitrogen hypoxia “to ensure that Alabama carries out this method in a humane manner.”

In Tennessee, a trial began this week over the state’s new three-drug lethal injection protocol.  The Tennessean reports that lawyers for a group of prisoners are arguing that the state’s use of midazolam supplied by an unlicensed,out-of-state compounding pharmacy will cause “death through poisoning. Poisoning causes extreme pain and suffering. Using a paralytic during the poisoning causes extreme terror and distress.” The state has turned to an outside compounding pharmacy because pharmaceutical companies refuse to allow their drugs to be used in executions. The state maintains that the compounding pharmacy has a pending application with the state for a license. Tennessee plans to execute Bill Ray Irick August 9.

In Pennsylvania, the Philly Voice reports that Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner accepted a plea deal of life without parole in the case of two men accused of killing a Philadelphia police officer. Brothers Carlton Hipps and Ramone Williams allegedly shot Sgt. Robert Wilson III in March 2015 during an attempted robbery at a game store. The 30-year-old Wilson was in the store to buy a present for his son’s 10th birthday. The Voice reports that WIlson’s family was split over the issue of the plea deal, with Wilson’s children and their mothers in favor, and his grandmother and sister opposed.

In Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports that Danny Bible was executed late last month for the murder 20-year-old Inez Deaton in 1979. He wasn’t arrested for the murder until 1998, and prosecutors say that in those 19 years, he killed two other women and a baby, and committed multiple rapes. He was sentenced to death in 2003. His was the seventh execution in Texas this year.

The Houston Chronicle also reports that Texas’ lethal injection supplier is of interest to a group of Arkansas death row prisoners. The paper says that four of the men who were among the original group of eight prisoners who were scheduled to be executed in Arkansas in April of last year before their executions were stayed. The group is fighting the state’s plan to use midazolam, which has been used in many botched executions in other states. They are asking for the name of the supplier, which would be kept secret under a protective order. Texas uses just one drug, barbiturate pentobarbital, in its executions. The Chronicle says that Texas was on the verge of running out of drugs in May, but  that last month, records revealed that the state had obtained 15 give-gram vials. The source of the drugs isn’t clear, and the state’s secrecy laws protect that information, Most manufacturers prohibit the sale of their drugs for use in executions, and the Chronicle says  “some advocates and defense lawyers have repeatedly voiced concerns about the number of prisoners who have said the drug ‘hurts’ or ‘burns’ in their final moments before death.”

You might also be interested in...

Federal judge finds Scott Panetti unfit to be executed by Texas

Scott Panetti, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia 35 years ago, was convicted of killing his wife’s parents in 1992 and sentenced...
Read More

Death penalty states may have difficulty finding lethal injection medical equipment

The Intercept reports that four companies that manufacture medical equipment, including Baxter International Inc., B. Braun Medical Inc., Fresenius Kabi,...
Read More

While we’re on the subject . . .

“Under the Eighth Amendment, execution by nitrogen is surely unusual because it has never been used as a method of...
Read More