A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Federal judge declares Missouri death penalty protocols unconstitutional

[JURIST] A federal judge Monday rejected Missouri's lethal injection protocols as unconstitutional [JURIST report] for the second time. Last month, US District Judge Fernando Gaitan [official profile] ordered [PDF] Missouri [JURIST news archive] to submit new protocols [JURIST report] by October 27 for carrying out the state death penalty [JURIST news archive]. The decision is in response to a lawsuit [case materials] filed by convicted murderer Michael Taylor [NCADP backgrounder], who claims Missouri's execution procedures are "constitutionally cruel" because the drug mixture could lead to severe pain for the inmate. In Monday's ruling, Gaitan again expressed concern about subjecting inmates to unreasonable risk of cruel and unusual punishment. In July, the judge had also ordered [JURIST report] the Missouri Department of Corrections [official website] to have a board-certified anesthesiologist assist in executions. Earlier this month, the state's attorneys submitted the same protocols Missouri has been using and asked Gaitan to reconsider his September decision. AP has more.

Like other states that authorize lethal injection [DPIC backgrounder], Missouri uses a three-drug regime. The first drug acts as a painkiller while the second paralyzes and the third drug causes a fatal heart attack. A 2005 study [registration required] published in the medical journal Lancet [journal website] suggested that the painkiller may wear off before the inmate dies.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.