Florida may take over state’s lethal injection process for executions of serial killer Joseph Franklin and three other inmates this year
The US district judge for Nevada said he will start hearing arguments on Monday on whether the state’s lethal injection procedure complies with constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment in which US executions are currently banned by law.
US district judge Jed Rakoff is weighing whether the state’s two-drug method to execute death row inmates using fentanyl and cisatracurium violates the ban, because the drugs can cause excruciating pain.
Franklin is due to be executed by lethal injection on Friday, as is Ronald Lee Moore. The two other prisoners set to be executed this year are Gaylon Keith and Johnathan Cromwell.
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Under a ruling in February, both parties agreed that the inmates had failed to establish they were at risk of suffering an “extreme level of pain and suffering” in executions. Judge Rakoff said then that “most (hindsight) models suggest the likelihood that an inmate will suffer in an execution is a remote one”, but a final ruling is not expected before October.
In a response to a change in state law in 2015 to allow for sodium thiopental, an anesthetic, to be substituted for the drugs now used to execute prisoners, the state denied that it had violated the constitution.
Under the 2013 change in Nevada’s procedures for lethal injections, the US states of Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Arizona are believed to still be the only ones using a two-drug method to execute inmates. The practice is under scrutiny in other states, including Ohio, Missouri and Wyoming.
On Monday, federal public defender Matthew Coleman and the state attorney general, Adam Laxalt, will make oral arguments to Judge Rakoff. At the same time, judges in Las Vegas are scheduled to hear the lawyers for death row inmates Joseph Franklin and Ron Moore present their arguments about whether the state failed to follow proper procedure when it executed them by lethal injection in January 2017. The judges are not expected to rule on that issue until later in April.