On August 9, 2004, two death-sentenced prisoners at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville, Kentucky filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Section 17 of the Kentucky Constitution against the Kentucky Department of Corrections in the Kentucky Circuit Court for Franklin County. The ...
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On August 9, 2004, two death-sentenced prisoners at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville, Kentucky filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Section 17 of the Kentucky Constitution against the Kentucky Department of Corrections in the Kentucky Circuit Court for Franklin County. The plaintiffs asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the defendants had threatened to violate their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by subjecting him to a "cut-down" procedure and "torturing him to death" through the use of a short-acting barbiturate during the lethal injection process. The plaintiffs also alleged that their due process rights were violated by the defendants' refusal to disclose the execution procedures.
On September 8, 2004, the defendants asked the District Court to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that their lethal injection methodology created an unreasonable and medically unacceptable risk of subjecting them to undue pain and suffering.
On July 8, 2005, the Franklin Circuit Court (Judge Roger L. Crittendon) issued an injunction prohibiting the defendants from utilizing the portion of their lethal injection protocol that permits injection of lethal chemicals into the neck of the condemned prisoner. The court held that all other parts of the state's execution protocol complied with the state and federal constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. The plaintiffs appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
On November 22, 2006, the Kentucky Supreme Court (Judge Wintersheimer) affirmed the decision of the circuit court, holding that the lethal injection procedures as modified would not violate the rights of the plaintiffs to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Baze v. Rees, 217 S.W.3d 207 (KY 2006).
The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari on October 3, 2007. It issued an opinion on April 16, 2008 and affirmed the decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court. It held that Kentucky's lethal injection protocol does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment because there is not a substantial risk of serious harm, and the risk that the Department of Corrections may erroneously administer the drug does not qualify as such. It also held that Kentucky was under no obligation to adopt any of the allegedly more humane alternatives to its lethal injection protocol. 553 U.S. 35 (2008)Kristen Sagar - 09/03/2007
Anna Dimon - 05/15/2015