A blog produced by the Oregon Justice Resource Center discussing the death penalty (capital punishment) in Oregon and in the Ninth Circuit.
From AZCentral Halt to execution sought over inconsistent procedures
Attorneys for an Arizona prisoner who is scheduled to die later this month on Tuesday asked for a preliminary injunction against his execution because the state Department of Corrections repeatedly varies from its own policies in carrying out death sentences.
Samuel Lopez is scheduled to be executed on May 16 for the murder of a Phoenix woman in 1987.
Similar arguments were knocked down in U.S. District Court last December and again in February. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in on the February case and put Corrections Department lawyers on notice, though the court allowed two executions to go forward. A third execution since then was carried out in April.
The argument has swirled since 2007, when the Department of Corrections and attorneys representing prisoners began hammering out a protocol for executions. Tuesday’s filing claims that the protocol has been changed numerous times, most recently in January, and that the department has not been able to adhere to it.
In February, for example, the department switched from a three-drug to a one-drug protocol two days before an execution because it discovered that one of the other required drugs had passed its expiration date. In March, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had illegally allowed Arizona and other states to import death-penalty drugs from England in 2010 and 2011.
Among the ongoing issues have been the backgrounds and qualifications of the medical staff who perform the executions, and their repeated use of a catheter that is surgically implanted in an artery in the prisoner’s groin.
“I’m astounded that Arizona is the only state that has to perform surgery to carry out an execution,” said Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich.
In a memorandum accompanying Tuesday’s motion for preliminary injunction, Baich noted that the so-called femoral catheter was used in the February execution of Robert Towery and the April execution of Thomas Kemp, even though autopsies showed that both men had suitable veins for easy catheter insertion in their arms.
Towery, the memorandum said, was stuck 11 times in his arms, wrist and groin before the execution doctor succeeded in inserting a catheter in his groin. The process requires a long needle that threads a wire into the vein, along which a plastic tube is slid, followed by the catheter itself, which is stitched or stapled into place.
Towery also asked to speak to Baich, his lawyer, during the time the surgery was being performed, but was denied, the memorandum says.
In his motion, Baich asked the court to stop the Lopez execution and allow time to further argue the protocol lapses.