US judge orders delay hours before scheduled executions

A US judge has ruled that the drugs to be used in federal executions may cause pain and suffering and were therefore likely unconstitutional (Bigstock)

A US court has ordered a delay of the first scheduled federal execution in 17 years, saying the drug to be used would likely cause extreme pain and suffering, in violation of the Constitution. Source: CNA.

Several US bishops recently joined a statement of more than 1000 faith leaders opposing the resumption of federal executions. And last week, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark and several other bishops asked President Donald Trump to commute the death sentence of one federal inmate, who was scheduled to be executed on July 17. Cardinal Tobin told Mr Trump that he knew the condemned inmate personally.

US District Court judge Tanya Chutkan yesterday issued an injunction preventing the execution of Daniel Lee, 47, who was scheduled to die yesterday afternoon at the federal penitentiary in Indiana.

Judge Chutkan said that the federal government’s plan to execute Lee and other prisoners with pentobarbital was likely unconstitutional because “the scientific evidence before the court overwhelmingly indicates that the 2019 Protocol is very likely to cause Plaintiffs extreme pain and needless suffering during their executions”.

She wrote in her ruling that medical experts and witnesses of past executions testified that using pentobarbital for executions causes panic and the feeling of drowning, because of a buildup of fluid in the lungs.

“Eyewitness accounts of executions using pentobarbital describe inmates repeatedly gasping for breath or showing other signs of respiratory distress, and indicate that flash pulmonary edema is common and extremely painful,” she wrote.

The judge’s ruling is not final, it means that Lee can continue to challenge the proposed method of execution in court.

Lawyers for the Justice Department have appealed the ruling.

Last (northern) summer, Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons to resume execution of federal prisoners on death row for the first time since 2003.

FULL STORY

Court halts scheduled federal executions (Catholic News Agency)

RELATED COVERAGE

US judge delays first federal execution in 17 years, hours before scheduled death (The Age/Reuters)

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