By KEN RITTER, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) – A federal judge in Las Vegas on Tuesday began a series of hearings on the constitutionality of the method and combination of novel drugs that prison authorities want to use for Nevada’s first fatal injection in addition to 15 years.
U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II has called the testimony he receives from experts called this week by lawyers for Zane Floyd – and the evidence he expects to hear from the state’s senior prison and medical administrators during the hearings scheduled for mid-December – “the most serious procedure that has possibly been before this tribunal.”
“I’m going to ask your experts the same questions,” the judge told Randall Gilmer, the Nevada chief assistant attorney general who is leading the state case.
Floyd, 45, doesn’t want to die. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000 for killing four people and injuring a fifth in a 1999 shotgun attack at a Las Vegas grocery store. His execution was scheduled for last July but delayed pending the outcome of the legal proceedings.
In a record filed in court Friday, Floyd’s attorneys David Anthony and Brad Levenson said Nevada Corrections officials had devised an execution plan, or protocol, without “any scientific basis … ( which) risks inflicting unnecessary pain … and constitutes a prohibited experiment on a captive human subject.
“The protocol is new, using ketamine – which has never been used in an execution – at a dosage that has no scientific basis that anyone has yet to identify,” they argued.
Their first witness on Tuesday was a defense consultant Dr Mark Heath, a clinical anesthesiologist who teaches at Columbia University in New York City and is an expert on the effectiveness of lethal injection drugs.
In a written court document, Heath said Nevada devised “an extremely agonizing method of causing death” with the use of drugs to numb and paralyze the inmate before “the excruciating pain of the intravenous concentrated potassium” administered as the agent. stopping the heart.
Nevada’s plan is to use the anesthetic ketamine first among three or four drugs that also include the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, then potassium chloride and possibly a muscle paralytic called cisatracurium. The drug alfentanil could replace fentanyl and potassium acetate could replace potassium chloride, according to the state’s plan.
No state has used ketamine or fentanyl substitute during an execution, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Potassium acetate, also used as an airplane defroster, was mistakenly used by Oklahoma during a lethal injection in 2015.
Heath, who described witnessing executions which, in his words, “went wrong,” visited the Nevada execution chamber at Ely State Prison and said he was said parts of the implementation protocol had not been finalized or made public.
He spoke about the medical training or qualification requirements of those who would administer the drugs and whether these people would be properly trained to respond if something goes wrong and a decision is made to stop the drug. process.
“Rehearsals and training are very important,” Heath told the judge, calling an execution “a complicated, high stakes and tense affair” where if things go wrong, “it is a terrible and disastrous thing.”
The testimony was to continue on Wednesday.
Floyd’s legal team is also challenging his execution in Las Vegas state court and has several pending appeals in the Nevada Supreme Court.
An appeal is also pending before the 9th United States Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the Floyd case, including allegations that his mother’s alcohol consumption during her pregnancy had left him with a decrease in his mental capacities.
State officials did not respond to Floyd’s request for leniency based on his request for further evidence of brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder caused by childhood trauma and his military service as a Marine at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The last person to be killed in Nevada was Daryl Mack in 2006 for a rape and murder in 1988 in Reno. He asked for the execution of his sentence.
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