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Maryland judge suspends lethal injection reports until death penalty status resolved

[JURIST] US District Judge Benson Legg [official profile] Monday suspended a requirement that the Maryland Attorney General [official website] submit proposals for using medical professionals to conduct lethal injections until such time as the controversy over the status of the state's capital punishment [JURIST news archive] is resolved. Maryland death row inmate Vernon Evans, Jr. [advocacy website] had initially challenged the constitutionality of lethal injections, saying that personnel are not qualified to protect against the inmate's pain and suffering during the procedure. Legg had previously ordered both the attorney general and Evans to submit status reports every 90 days, including proposals from the state on the feasibility of using medical professionals to perform the injections. The state claims that lethal injection is not a medical procedure, that executioners are qualified to perform it, and that using medical professionals would be nearly impossible since the American Medical Association [profession website] discourages them from participating in capital punishment. The judge plans to use the information to balance the harm to Evans if he is forced to undergo an injection performed by executioners against the burden to the state of Maryland if it is forced to recruit medical professionals.

In December, the Maryland Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the state's lethal injection procedures are subject to the state's Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and therefore must be developed under the guidance of the Maryland attorney general, a legislative committee and with review and comment by the public unless the legislature acts to explicitly exempt lethal injection protocol from the APA. Two bills currently before Maryland's legislature, HB690 and HB239 [official synopses], seek to exempt it from the APA. AP has more.

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