Mississippi Judge Halts Executions Described as ‘Excruciating’

Federal Court and Lethal Injection
A federal judge in Mississippi temporarily halted executions in the state. File photo by AVN Photo Lab/Shutterstock

JACKSON, Miss., Aug. 25 (Danielle Haynes) — A federal judge issued a temporary halt of executions in Mississippi on Tuesday in response to a complaint by two death row inmates who say the state’s lethal injection protocol is “excruciating.”

In a complaint filed in April by death row inmates Ricky Chase and Richard Jordan describes Mississippi’s three-drug cocktail as cruel and unusual punishment. Mississippi uses pentobarbital and midazolam in its executions, two drugs that have come under recent scrutiny by critics who say they don’t cause a quick and pain-free death.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld the use of midazolam in executions, but made no ruling on pentobarbital.

U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate issued an oral order Tuesday temporarily halting the use of the two drugs. He didn’t file a written order explaining his reasoning.

In response, the state filed an appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In their complaint, Chase and Jordan’s lawyers argued that since the state won’t disclose its source for pentobarbital, its purity and potency can’t be verified. They also say the drug is not quick-acting.

“The humaneness and constitutionality of the three-drug lethal injection process hinges on whether the entire dose of [pentobarbital] is administered correctly, and whether the drug is sufficiently potent, pure and rapid in onset to ensure that the prisoner is unconscious and insensate so he does not feel the torturous effects of the second and third drugs,” the complaint says. “If the first drug administered fails to work as intended, the execution will be torturous for the prisoner.”

The complaint describes the effect of potassium chloride — the third drug in the cocktail — as “excruciating” and “burning.”


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