[JURIST] Pennsylvania's lethal injection protocol [JURIST news archive] creates an "unnecessary risk of pain and suffering" in violation of the Eighth Amendment, a lawyer for three death row convicts challenging the procedure said Tuesday. On November 9, lawyer David Rudovsky filed suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania [official website] on behalf of the plaintiff inmates, alleging that the commonwealth failed to adequately train executioners or assure that condemned inmates received the proper dosage of sodium pentothal anesthetic [DPIC backgrounder] to prevent extreme pain during execution. The plaintiffs seek class action certification for Pennsylvania's 228 death row inmates. AP has more.
Last month, the American Bar Association death penalty assessment team [ABA materials], of which Rudovsky is a member, said that Pennsylvania's death penalty system is so flawed [JURIST report] that it has denied defendants due process and could result in wrongful executions. Based on case studies in eight states, the ABA called for a nationwide moratorium on executions [JURIST report], though the studies did not examine whether lethal injections constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Several states have placed a moratorium on lethal injections pending US Supreme Court review of the issue in Baze v. Rees (07-5439) [docket; cert. petition]. Several constitutional challenges to the procedure have arisen across the country, arguing that the sodium pentothal anesthetic fails to make the inmate fully unconscious, thereby making the inmate suffer excruciating pain when the heart-stopping drug is injected.