MISSOURI. JUDGE AGAIN RULES DEATH-PENALTY PROCEDURE IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
October 16, 2006: a federal judge has ruled for the second time that Missouri's death penalty procedures were unconstitutional. The ruling issued October 16 by US District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. confirmed a ruling he made in September that the death penalty protocol, which uses a three-drug lethal injection, could subject Missouri inmates to an unreasonable risk of cruel and unusual punishment. The earlier ruling halted all executions in Missouri.
Gaitan had first ordered in June that the Missouri Department of Corrections make sweeping changes to its execution protocol. The issue is how painful lethal injection can be if the three drugs used are not given correctly. If the injection is given improperly, an inmate could be in âtorturousâ pain but paralyzed and unable to show it, Gaitan said in his September ruling. In that order, Gaitan gave the state until October 27 to provide a revised protocol. But the state resubmitted the same proposal October 6, arguing that it was constitutional and asking the judge to reconsider his decision. The state's attorneys had asked Gaitan to rule quickly, so they could file an appeal if he ruled against them. âThe state's response does nothing to address these concerns and indicates its lack of willingness to even attempt to comply with the court's order,â Gaitan wrote in his latest ruling.
Gaitan's ruling comes in the case of Michael A. Taylor, one of two men convicted of raping and killing Kansas City teenager Ann Harrison in 1989. Taylor came within hours of death earlier this year before his execution was stopped by the legal challenge.
Gaitan ordered the state to improve the monitoring of inmates to be sure they get enough anaesthesia during the execution process. He also ordered that a doctor trained in administering anaesthesia either mix the chemicals or oversee the mixing of chemicals for executions. (Sources: AP, 17/10/2006)