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Case Name Nooner v. Norris CJ-AR-0001
Docket / Court 5:06-cv-110 ( E.D. Ark. )
State/Territory Arkansas
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Case Summary
On May 1, 2006, an inmate awaiting execution at the Supermax Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Represented by the Federal Public Defender, the inmate claimed that the procedures ... read more >
On May 1, 2006, an inmate awaiting execution at the Supermax Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Represented by the Federal Public Defender, the inmate claimed that the procedures used to carry out lethal injections in Arkansas—specifically the use of potassium chloride in the lethal cocktail of drugs—risked unnecessary conscious suffering in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The plaintiff sought injunctive and declaratory relief against the execution practices employed by the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC). He did not challenge his sentence or challenge the use of lethal injection.

On May 4, 2006, a second death row inmate in Arkansas moved to intervene. A few days later, his execution was scheduled for July 5 of that year. On May 26, the district court (Judge Susan Webber Wright) allowed him to intervene as a plaintiff.

On June 16, following his addition to the case, the second plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the defendants from carrying out executions in accordance with the lethal injection protocol. At the hearing on the motion, a medical expert testified that the state's lethal injection procedure created medically unacceptable risks of inflicting pain and suffering. Judge Wright granted the motion on June 26, noting that the plaintiff had not delayed in filing to intervene because he had had to wait to exhaust all of his appeals. The order granting the preliminary injunction stayed the State of Arkansas from implementing the order for execution of the second plaintiff. And four days later, the defendants appealed.

In the midst of ruling on the preliminary injunction appeal, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the original complaint, arguing that the plaintiff could not state a claim. First, they argued that the plaintiff had not exhausted all of the remedies available to him under the Department of Correction’s grievance policy. Second, the claim fell outside the statute of limitations for § 1983 actions. Judge Wright disagreed and denied the motion to dismiss on June 19, 2006.

On November 22, 2006, a third death row inmate sought to intervene. On December 1, 2006, Judge Wright granted the motion.

On July 7, 2007 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the preliminary injunction granted by the district court and vacated the stay of execution issued to the second plaintiff. The Court of Appeals found that the district court abused its discretion in granting the stay of execution and the preliminary injunction. Because the inmate could have brought his § 1983 claim before it was necessary to grant a stay, the district court exceeded the scope of its power to grant the preliminary injunction. 491 F.3d 804.

On July 17, 2007 the defendants filed for summary judgment. They argued that Arkansas's lethal injection protocol was substantially identical to the protocol used by the state of Missouri, which was upheld against constitutional challenge by the Eighth Circuit in Taylor v. Crawford, 487 F.3d 1072 (8th Cir. 2007). In their reply to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs argued that they had not been provided with the opportunity to engage in discovery, and that a significant number of genuine issues of material fact remained even without discovery.

On August 5, 2008 the district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dissolved the stay of execution. The district court relied on the Eighth Circuit's approval of Missouri's lethal injection protocol, which the court found was sufficiently similar to Arkansas' protocol. The district court found that the plaintiffs had failed to come forward with evidence that Arkansas' protocol for execution by lethal injection "subject[ed] them to constitutionally significant risk of pain."

On August 29, 2008, the plaintiffs filed an appeal. On February 8, 2010 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment for the defendants. The Court found that Arkansas' protocol was substantially similar to Missouri's protocol upheld by the Court of Appeals and to Kentucky's protocol upheld by the Supreme Court.

On November 10, 2010, the United States Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs' petition for a writ of certiorari. At the time of this writing, the original plaintiff had not been executed. The second plaintiff was granted a stay in 2017. The third plaintiff was executed on April 24, 2017. The case is now closed.

Justin Benson - 01/30/2012
Amanda Stephens - 01/30/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Death Penalty
Lethal Injection - Chemicals Used
Lethal Injection - General
Defendant-type
Corrections
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Arkansas Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Three Arkansas death row inmates claiming that the protocol for carrying out execution by lethal injection in Arkansas violates the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2006
Case Closing Year 2008
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
(E.D. Ark.)
CJ-AR-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/10/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint
CJ-AR-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2006
Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 13]
CJ-AR-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/19/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (E.D. Ark.)
CJ-AR-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/26/2006
Response to Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 20]
CJ-AR-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2006
Application for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 21-1]
CJ-AR-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/12/2006
Order [ECF# 24] (2006 WL 4958988) (E.D. Ark.)
CJ-AR-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/19/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 29] (2006 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 96183) (E.D. Ark.)
CJ-AR-0001-0006.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/26/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion to Dismiss
CJ-AR-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2006
Motion of Voluntary Dismissal [ECF# 46]
CJ-AR-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Response to Pro Se Motion [ECF# 52]
CJ-AR-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/03/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 63] (2007 WL 1341124) (E.D. Ark.)
CJ-AR-0001-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/07/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 65] (491 F.3d 804)
CJ-AR-0001-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/09/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 75]
CJ-AR-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/17/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 80]
CJ-AR-0001-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/30/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 142] (2008 WL 3211290) (E.D. Ark.)
CJ-AR-0001-0017.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/05/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (594 F.3d 592)
CJ-AR-0001-0015.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/08/2010
Memorandum [ECF# 161]
CJ-AR-0001-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/10/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Benton, William Duane (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0015
Colloton, Steven M. (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0014
Forster, John F. Jr. (E.D. Ark.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-9000
Gruender, Raymond W. (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0014 | CJ-AR-0001-0015
Hansen, David Rasmussen (N.D. Iowa, Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0014
Melloy, Michael Joseph (N.D. Iowa, Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0015
Wright, Susan Webber (FISC, W.D. Ark., E.D. Ark.) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0005 | CJ-AR-0001-0006 | CJ-AR-0001-0007 | CJ-AR-0001-0012 | CJ-AR-0001-0017 | CJ-AR-0001-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adams, Dale E. (Arkansas) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0016 | CJ-AR-0001-9000
Brain , Julie C. (Arkansas) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0001 | CJ-AR-0001-0003 | CJ-AR-0001-0011 | CJ-AR-0001-0016 | CJ-AR-0001-9000
Rosenzweig, Jeffrey (Arkansas) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0016 | CJ-AR-0001-9000
Sallings , Deborah Ruth (Arkansas) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0004 | CJ-AR-0001-0016 | CJ-AR-0001-9000
Schay, E Alvin (Arkansas) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0004 | CJ-AR-0001-0016 | CJ-AR-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cordi , C Joseph (Arkansas) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0013 | CJ-AR-0001-9000
Hagemeier, Mark Arnold (Arkansas) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0002 | CJ-AR-0001-9000
McDaniel, Dustin (Arkansas) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0013
Svoboda, Joseph V. (Arkansas) show/hide docs
CJ-AR-0001-0002 | CJ-AR-0001-9000

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