On April 20, 2007, attorneys representing a Georgia state prisoner awaiting imposition of his death sentence filed a civil complaint on his behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Plaintiff's counsel included attorneys from private firms in New York and Atlanta, as ...
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On April 20, 2007, attorneys representing a Georgia state prisoner awaiting imposition of his death sentence filed a civil complaint on his behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Plaintiff's counsel included attorneys from private firms in New York and Atlanta, as well as from the Georgia Resource Center, affiliated with the Georgia State University College of Law. Relying on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the complaint alleged that the prisoner's Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights would be violated by the method of execution used by the state. The complaint named, as defendants, two Georgia correctional officials, as well as listing fifty unknown executioners as "John Does." Plaintiff sought equitable and injunctive relief to restrain state officials from carrying out his execution until they had reasonably minimized the unnecessary risk of pain, suffering, and mutilation which allegedly resulted from the state's present execution method (utilizing injections of a barbiturate anesthetic, a neuromuscular blocking drug, and potassium chloride). Plaintiff's complaint stated that exhaustion of administrative remedies was not required for the type of prospective harm and relief involved in his case but, nonetheless, he had unsuccessfully made attempts through available prison grievance avenues to seek relief. He alleged that the execution process used by Georgia resulted in cruel and unusual punishment, in deliberate indifference to his health, safety, and serious medical needs, and was the product of arbitrary and capricious state conduct. Plaintiff also sought an award of attorney's fees and costs. Attached, as an exhibit, to the complaint was a copy of Georgia's written execution procedures.
The state defendants did not file an answer to the complaint but, instead, filed a motion to dismiss and supporting brief. The state contended that 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e), the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), required plaintiff to exhaust his administrative remedies, which he had not done. The state noted a recent federal case in Kentucky had required administrative remedy exhaustion in similar circumstances.
Over the next month, the parties exchanged pleadings and correspondence disputing whether the PLRA applied to plaintiff's circumstances and whether his efforts amounted to exhaustion of remedies. A June 15, 2007, response filed by the state included a copy of the state's newly-revised execution procedures, adopted on June 7, 2007.
No currently available information reflects additional action in this case. Many of the plaintiff's contentions, however, may have been undercut by the U.S. Supreme Court's April 16, 2008, decision in Baze v. Reeves, 128 S. Ct. 1520 (2008) (John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice) (Kentucky's three-drug execution protocol did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment).Mike Fagan - 06/03/2008