On August 28, 1990, Charles Silagy, a death-sentenced inmate at the Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois, filed a class-action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Illinois Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiff alleged that his constitutional rights would be violated by the use of a barbituate, a paralytic agent, and potassium chloride in a non-continuous sequence during the lethal injection process, and he asked the court to order the defendants to insure that enough barbiturate is given to render him insensate before the other chemicals are administered.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Judge James Block Zagel) declined to certify the class, reasoning that the class was not so numerous and dispersed as to require a class action, and that the plaintiff did not seem to be a good class representative. The plaintiff appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision.
Following the Seventh Circuit ruling, Silagy decided that he wanted to opt out of the case, and another death-sentenced inmate, Ronald Barrow, expressed a wish to take Silagy's place as plaintiff. On February 7, 1991, the District Court (Judge Zagel) granted Silagy's motion to dismiss his suit and well as Barrows' motion to join the case as plaintiff. The court then addressed the plaintiff's concerns as follows:
1) The plaintiff argued that procedural due process is denied when a prison is executed by a method not prescribed by statute, meaning that the statute creates an enforceable right to execution in a set manner, and that this right cannot be taken away without due process of law. The court held this argument to be without merit, finding that the statute prescribing lethal injection was not intended to benefit the one to be executed, noting that a statute does not create an enforceable right unless the provision in question is intended to benefit the plaintiff.
2) The plaintiff argued that substantive due process is denied by a method of execution not expressly authorized by law. The court held this argument to be without merit, finding that cases which do not offend the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution cannot present separate questions of substantive due process.
3) The plaintiff argued that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The court held this argument to be without merit, finding that a few minutes of pain has never been held to render a method of execution unconstitutional, and holding that the state does not have a duty to make its chosen method of execution as painless as possible.
In light of these considerations, the court dismissed the complaint. Silagy v. Thompson, No. 90-5028, 1991 WL 18418 (N.D.Ill. Feb. 7, 1991). The plaintiff appealed, and the defendants asked the Seventh Circuit to dismiss the case. On November 1, 1991, the Seventh Circuit (Judges William Joseph Bauer, Richard Allen Posner, and Michale Stephen Kanne) dismissed the case.
Our Pacer docket, which is accurate as of September 3, 2007, ends here, and we have no further information on the case.Kristen Sagar - 09/03/2007