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AZ - Reuters - Kemp Execution sparks Debate Over Single-Drug LI
AZ - Reuters - Lawyer says Arizona inmate shook violently during execution
CA - LAT - Brown orders consideration of single-drug execution method
CA - AP - Calif. makes new attempt to restart executions
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04/27/2012 | 10:11 am | via Huffington Post
Thomas Kemp Execution sparks Debate Over Single-Drug Lethal Injection
By Steve Robrahn | Reuters
(Reuters) - A Kentucky judge ordered state officials to consider using a single drug to carry out executions instead of a series of three drugs used by many states where the death penalty is legal.
The judge's ruling on Wednesday was handed down on the same day that a controversy erupted over the execution of a man in Arizona using a single drug.
Thomas Kemp was put to death in Arizona on Wednesday using the single drug pentobarbital. His lawyer Tim Gabrielsen, who witnessed the execution, said after Kemp had been put to death that the inmate began to "shake violently" after the drug was injected.
In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Gabrielsen said he was concerned that his client might have suffered cruel and unusual pain before he died. A corrections official who also witnessed the execution disputed Gabrielsen's account.
A handful of the 33 states where capital punishment is legal use a single drug. In addition to Arizona, they are South Dakota, Idaho, Ohio and Washington.
In a ruling issued on Wednesday in Frankfort, Kentucky, Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd gave state officials 90 days to decide whether to adopt rules for carrying out executions with a single drug. Without such action, Shepherd said he would move toward a trial on a lawsuit against the state of Kentucky brought by six inmates on death row.
The judge also gave the state the same period to adopt regulations to guard against executing mentally ill or insane prisoners. The inmates argued that the three-drug execution method violates their Eighth Amendment constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
In the three-drug series, pentobarbital or another sedative is administered to put the inmate to sleep before two other drugs are given to paralyze the person and stop the heart.
Death row inmates in several states have challenged this procedure in courts, arguing that if the sedative is not administered properly, the inmate could be subject to cruel and unusual pain before death when the other drugs are injected.
Inmates have argued it would be more humane to inject a massive dose of the sedative to kill the inmate and eliminate the other drugs.
Judge Shepherd said a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the three-drug method was partly based on the fact that no states were then using a single-drug method and there were no studies that showed it would be an equally effective method.
"Thus, the Supreme Court's affirmation of the three-drug protocol was contingent on the absence of any proven alternative method of lethal injection," Shepherd wrote in his ruling.
But the judge said since then, the five states have approved using a single barbiturate-only procedure and that at least 18 people have been executed in that manner.
The Kentucky ruling, along with actions by a handful of states to switch to single-drug executions, is "giving momentum to the argument that this is a more humane, safer protocol," said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.
Dieter said a consensus could be building toward a one-drug method as opposed to the three-drug protocol.
A spokeswoman for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said on Thursday he would not comment on the ruling until it is reviewed by state officials including the Department of Corrections. Governor Steve Beshear also noted the ruling was under review but declined further comment.
Kentucky last carried out an execution in 2008. The state has executed only three people since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976.
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Editing By Andrew Stern and Greg McCune
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April 26, 2012 | 4:32 p.m. CDT | via Chicago Tribune
Lawyer says Arizona inmate shook violently during execution
Tim Gaynor | Reuters
PHOENIX (Reuters) - The lawyer for a convicted murderer executed in Arizona said on Thursday his client shook violently after a lethal injection drug was administered, and may call for an independent autopsy to determine if he experienced any pain.
A defiant Thomas Kemp, 63, was executed on Wednesday by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence, about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix, for kidnapping and killing a Hispanic college student in 1992. His last words were: "I regret nothing."
Kemp's attorney Tim Gabrielsen, in a version of events disputed by a corrections department spokesman, said Kemp's upper body started to "shake violently" for around 5 or 6 seconds shortly after the fatal dose of pentobarbital was administered at 10:01 a.m. He was pronounced dead at 10:08.
"They used cowhide restraints at his wrists to tie him to the gurney ... the upper half of his body all started to shake violently, and there was tension being put on that cowhide restraint," Gabrielsen, who witnessed the execution, told Reuters.
"I don't know if he was conscious for that ... We are discussing whether an autopsy would establish if Mr. Kemp suffered pain unnecessarily," he added.
Gabrielsen said that, should an autopsy determine Kemp experienced pain in his final moments, he might add the findings to a civil suit questioning state execution protocols that was previously filed against Arizona.
Kemp, who was sentenced to death in 1993 for his role in snatching and killing Hector Soto Juarez, was the third inmate executed in Arizona this year.
The former trailer park maintenance man had consistently showed no remorse about the killing.
At his 1993 sentencing, Kemp said his only regret was not killing an accomplice, and he unleashed a tirade against Mexican immigrants and the legal system, saying his victim was "beneath my contempt."
Bill Lamoreaux, the spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections, also witnessed Kemp's execution and disputed Gabrielsen's testimony that Kemp's arm shook violently during the procedure.
"At the very beginning of the execution I noticed a slight twitching," Lamoreaux told Reuters, adding that Kemp "was offered a sedative, but he declined it."
"Additionally, it was cold in that room and he commented that it was chilly so we shut the air conditioner off and also provided him with a couple of blankets," he added.
Asked if he saw Kemp shaking violently, Lamoreaux replied: "His arm did twitch for maybe a couple of seconds. I saw the arm move a little bit." Asked if he would describe that twitching as violent, he replied: "I don't believe I would. No."
He had no comment on whether Kemp had felt any pain during the execution, and added that the procedure was in other respects no different from three other executions that he had witnessed in the state.
He said he had not previously seen an inmate's arm twitch "but everything else, absolutely. The heavier breathing and then, a couple of seconds, it looks like they are sleeping."
Amy Rezzonico, a spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, said the office had received no complaints or reports of anything out of the ordinary following the execution.
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Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech
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April 27, 2012
Brown orders consideration of single-drug execution method
The governor issues the directive as the state appeals a court order that has blocked California from carrying out the death penalty. The filing comes three days after certification of a ballot measure on capital punishment.
By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered prison officials to consider a single-drug method of executing condemned inmates as the state appeals a court order that has blocked California from carrying out the death penalty.
Mention of the directive came in a notice of appeal filed Thursday by Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris seeking to counter a February ruling that halted a revised three-drug lethal injection method. The filing came just three days after certification of a November ballot measure that would offer voters the chance to repeal California's death penalty.
The legal filing said the state would reevaluate its position in favor of the three-drug method if "the drugs needed to implement the protocol have, in fact, become unavailable." The U.S. maker of one of the drugs has stopped manufacturing it.
"In the meantime, under the governor's direction, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will also begin the process of considering alternative regulatory protocols, including a one-drug protocol, for carrying out the death penalty," the filing said.
A conservative law and order group sued the state last week to force it to implement a single-drug method of execution, a procedure used in nearly two dozen executions in other states.
A federal judge in 2006 halted executions in California after finding that inmates might experience excruciating pain under the state's three-drug procedure. California then revised its three-drug protocol, but a Marin County judge ruled in February that the state should have considered a single-drug method.
Death penalty opponents have long complained that the three-drug method could expose inmates to intense suffering, violating the Constitution's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment." During a federal trial, lawyers for a death row inmate presented evidence that inmates executed in California were not properly anesthetized by the first drug, which was followed by two drugs to paralyze them and stop their heart.
At least three states are executing inmates with a single large dose of pentobarbital, said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the California Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, the group that sued the state.
Fears that a single drug would take too long to bring on death have not been borne out, although one inmate executed by pentobarbital reportedly shook violently before dying, Scheidegger said.
"It's about time" the state appealed the Marin County ruling, said Scheidegger, who faulted the Brown administration for not seeking a stay of the decision.
Harris' aides referred questions about the appeal to Brown's office, which released a one-sentence statement from the governor: "My administration is working to ensure that California's laws on capital punishment are upheld."
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Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times
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Calif. makes new attempt to restart executions
By Paul Elias | The Associated Press
San Francisco (AP) -- Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered prison officials to explore using a single drug for lethal injections instead of three, in the state's latest attempt to restart long-stalled executions in California.
The governor's order was disclosed in an appeal of a Marin County judge's decision to toss out California's newly developed lethal injection regulations.
The new procedures called for prisoners to be put to death through the use of sodium thiopental, which may no longer be available in the United States, and two other drugs.
A federal judge in March barred the use of sodium thiopental purchased outside the country. There is no domestic maker of the product, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been ordered to turn over its foreign-bought drug to the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA is considering whether to appeal the judge's order.
Lawyers for the state Department of Justice said Thursday they would reconsider the appeal if it becomes certain that sodium thiopental can no longer be used in California executions.
Marin County Judge Faye D'Opal in December invalidated the regulations because she said the state failed to explain why it chose the three-drug mixture over the one-drug method, which may have a lower risk of causing undo suffering to the inmate. The judge noted that the state's own expert said the one-drug method was superior.
The appeal says the state still supports the three-drug protocol, but that the governor had directed officials to explore the one-drug option.
"My administration is working to ensure that California's laws on capital punishment are upheld and carried out in conformity with our statutes," Brown said in a prepared statement Thursday.
A federal judge halted executions in 2006 and ordered prison officials to improve their lethal injection procedures or he was going to find California's lethal injection process caused unconstitutional suffering. Since then, the state has constructed a new death chamber at San Quentin Prison, developed new regulations and trained a new team to carry out executions.
U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg has scheduled a hearing on the federal case Sept. 15, making it clear that no executions will take place in California this year.
But all of the legal maneuvering could be made moot in the fall. A measure to abolish capital punishment in California qualified for the November ballot Monday.
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AP Writer Don Thompson in Sacramento contributed to this report.
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