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Federal appeals court stays Alabama lethal injection execution

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on Wednesday stayed the execution [PDF opinion] of an Alabama man pending the Supreme Court's upcoming decision in Baze v. Rees (07-5439) [docket; cert. petition, PDF; JURIST report], where the court has been asked to rule on the constitutionality of lethal injections. Lawyers for death row inmate Daniel L. Siebert argued that Alabama's lethal injection cocktail, combined with the drugs he takes to treat his pancreatic cancer, could result in unnecessary pain and suffering for Siebert, in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The normal Alabama lethal injection protocol is the same protocol being challenged in Baze v. Rees and, according to the 11th Circuit, is "used in every other state that administers the death penalty." Alabama had argued that Siebert's execution should be allowed under a modified protocol, but the Eleventh Circuit called the changes "minor" and refused to allow the execution, scheduled for Thursday, to proceed. Lawyers for the inmate in Baze v. Rees have argued that the three-drug mixture [DIPC backgrounder] at issue constitutes cruel and unusual punishment because the first drug fails to make the inmate fully unconscious, thereby making the inmate suffer excruciating pain when the heart-stopping drug is injected. Since the Supreme Court accepted the Baze case in September, courts have stayed executions in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Virginia, and Georgia [JURIST reports]. The New York Times has more.

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