[JURIST] A US federal judge in California has ruled [opinion, PDF] that the state must change the drugs it uses when executing prisoners, because the current method may constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. US District Judge Jeremy Fogel [official profile] said that he was concerned that prisoners were conscious during execution by lethal injection and were experiencing extreme pain.
The ruling comes in a suit brought by Michael Morales [NCADP profile], who is scheduled to be executed February 21 for the rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl 25 years ago. Morales' attorneys argued that an error in administering the sedatives might make Morales appear to be unconscious, but he might in reality experience severe pain during the execution. In a factually similar case, the US Supreme Court in January agreed to hear [JURIST report; cert. grant, PDF] the appeal of a Florida death row inmate who is challenging that state's lethal injection method. The Supreme Court will not decide the constitutionality of lethal injection, however, but instead will consider whether Hill was entitled to file a challenge to the state's execution method. AP has more.