March 8, 2013

Kentucky Seeks Lifting Ban on Executions

Judge Phillip Shepherd - Franklin Circuit Court
Executions in Kentucky were put on hold in 2010 when concerns about drug protocols were expressed by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd. Prosecutors have addressed those concerns, and have petitioned the judge to lift the ban on executions.

Shepherd stopped lethal injections just before the state was going to execute  Gregory L. Wilson, 56, for the 1987 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 36-year-old Debbie Pooley.

The judge ordered the state to switch to a single-drug or two-drug method, which brings Kentucky in line with a minimum of seven other states using the single-drug execution protocol at this time.

Prior to this Kentucky had used sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Attorneys for those on death row have asserted the method using the three drugs poses an unnecessary risk of pain to their clients, and sought instead that a single-drug execution process would be used.

The reason for this is an attempt to thwart executions, because single-drug chemicals have become hard to come by because drug companies who opposed capital punishment deliberately stopped making them.

So if the attorneys can bring into question the single or triple-drug process, it becomes almost impossible to execute criminals for their crimes using lethal injection. Sodium thiopental is no longer made in the U.S. as a result.

Prosecutors Heather Fryman and Julie Scott Jernigan accurately told Sheperd that their opponents' idea is to manipulate the execution process so the drugs are in short supply and unable to be carried out.

"Other states have found supplies," Jernigan and Fryman wrote. "Thus, unless and until the department has attempted to obtain substances, and fails, any discussion of which protocol might be used, and what substances might be used, is purely academic and speculative."

Others states have turned to alternatives such as compounding pharmacies to acquire the needed drugs, said the prosecutors, citing South Dakota as one example.

Attorneys oppose lifting the ban, although they would be hard pressed to prove any case as to why. The idea of shortage of drugs is a manufactured one, and as long as capital punishment is allowed under Kentucky law, the executions of these brutal criminals need to go forward.

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