A blog produced by the Oregon Justice Resource Center discussing the death penalty (capital punishment) in Oregon and in the Ninth Circuit.
From the Republic, 4 death row inmates sue over Idaho’s newest lethal injection procedures
BOISE, Idaho — Four inmates on Idaho’s death row are suing the state, contending Idaho’s new execution procedures give too much power to prison officials, create a risk of severe pain and would allow unqualified workers to carry out medical procedures. The lawsuit, filed in Boise’s U.S. District Court late last week, asks a judge to stop all executions until the problems are fixed.
The lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Correction’s Director Brent Reinke, Operations Division Chief Kevin Kempf and other department officials comes as the men prepare for the possibility of an execution sometime in late spring or early summer. Richard Leavitt, convicted of the brutal 1984 stabbing death of Danette Jean Elg in Blackfoot, is waiting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court will consider his case. If the high court refuses, Leavitt could be the next inmate to enter the lethal injection chamber at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution.
Leavitt is joined in the lawsuit by fellow condemned inmates Thomas Creech, James Hairston and Gene Stuart. All four men are represented by the Federal Public Defender’s office.
In the 37-page lawsuit, the inmates take issue with Idaho’s newest version of the execution policy, adopted by the department earlier this year.
The new policy allows the state to use either a three-drug mixture for lethal injections, or to opt to use just one drug. It also changed the name of the team that administers the lethal injection from “injection team” to “medical team” and limited the legal ramifications for health professionals involved with executions.
It also can be changed at any time, under the sole discretion of one of two IDOC officials, without any notice to death row inmates or their attorneys. If unforeseen developments occur during an execution, Director Brent Reinke or Idaho Maximum Security Institution Warden Randy Blades can determine how to respond without any constraints on their discretion.
That gives too much power to the IDOC officials, the inmates contend, and violates the inmates’ right to due process.
“Executing any plaintiff without notice of the procedures to be used denies each plaintiff the right to a reasonable opportunity to review and to be heard, in violation of the right to due process,” attorney Oliver Loewy wrote on behalf of inmates in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also takes issue with the way Idaho officials might obtain the drugs used in lethal injection execution, with the inmates contending that the drugs would likely be illegally obtained or adulterated in some way.
The new protocol doesn’t require that members of the medical team have current professional experience inserting or maintaining IVs on a regular basis, the inmates claim, nor does it require that they have any experience or training in preparing chemicals for injection.
That creates the possibility of error, and extreme pain for the condemned, the inmates claim.
The state has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.