[JURIST] Alabama death row inmate Christopher Lee Price on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit [text, PDF] against the Alabama Department of Corrections [official website] claiming that the new lethal injection mix planned for use in his execution is unconstitutional. According to the complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Alabama [official website], Alabama plans to change the mix of drugs used to execute death row inmates, but this new mix of drugs has neither been tried on any inmate in the US nor has it been reviewed by any court. The complaint further explains that this new drug protocol is “substantially likely to subject [Price] to extreme pain, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and well-established United States Supreme Court precedent.” Another Alabama death row inmate, Thomas Arthur, also recently brought a similar suit [AP report] against the state’s Department of Corrections. His attorney points out that the new drug mixture planned for use by Alabama is also associated with botched executions that have recently occurred in other states.
The use of alternative drug protocols in lethal injections and their role in recent botched executions has been a topic of much debate and controversy in the US. In September Oklahoma moved to adopt new lethal injection procedures following the controversy around the botched execution of Clayton Lockett [JURIST reports] in April. Also last month a federal appeals court denied a challenge [JURIST report] to the lethal injection mix being used in Texas, where the inmate claimed similar violations of the eighth and fourteenth amendments. Many similar cases have also addressed issues surrounding the secrecy in which many new lethal injection drug and protocol decisions are made. Last month the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania [official website] filed a motion [JURIST report] pressing the state to be accountable for lethal injection drugs and procedures. JURIST Guest Columnist Sacha Baniel-Stark reflected [JURIST op-ed] on the implications of recent decisions surrounding these protocols and botched executions, and Guest Columnist Kimberly Newberry clarified the current policy [JURIST op-ed] surrounding lethal injection law in Oklahoma and explored the repercussions of such a policy.