On April 19, 2006, the plaintiff, a death row inmate in Kentucky represented by private counsel, filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Department of Corrections, the warden of the Kentucky State Penitentiary, the medical director of the Kentucky Department of Corrections, and the governor of ...
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On April 19, 2006, the plaintiff, a death row inmate in Kentucky represented by private counsel, filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Department of Corrections, the warden of the Kentucky State Penitentiary, the medical director of the Kentucky Department of Corrections, and the governor of Kentucky in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order, injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Eighth and Thirteenth Amendment rights to protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
The plaintiff claimed that the defendants' current method of lethal injection was unconstitutional because it created an unnecessary risk that the plaintiff would be tortured to death. The plaintiff was at a heightened risk due to damaged and compromised veins that made it difficult and potentially impossible for an I.V. to be inserted in the traditional way. Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that the defendants failed to ensure that personnel administering the lethal injection were properly trained, they did not have the means to appropriately monitor consciousness, and did not have adequate equipment to maintain life if a last minute stay of execution was granted after the first or second of the three chemicals had been administered.
The plaintiff asked the Court to bar the defendants from carrying out any execution until they had promulgated a rule officially detailing all aspects of the procedures used in the execution process. On April 26, 2006, the plaintiff filed a similar complaint in the Kentucky Circuit Court for Franklin County.
After the case was filed, several other inmates intervened and joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs. The Franklin Circuit Court held a full trial in the case of Bowling and Baze, holding that the state's lethal injection method did not violate their Eighth Amendment rights. They appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, who affirmed the decision on November 22, 2006. Baze v. Rees, 217 S.W.3d 207, 2006 WL 3386544 (Ky. 2006). Baze and Bowling filed their motions to intervene in this action five days later.
On March 30, 2007, the Court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction barring the defendants from scheduling or carrying out their executions. The Court also denied the plaintiffs' motion requesting a deposition from the governor of Kentucky about how he would respond if the execution was postponed. The plaintiffs' motion to compel disclosure of the Kentucky Department of Corrections' electrocution protocol was denied as was their facial challenge to the constitutionality of electrocution. The Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for permission to depose the defendant execution team members.
On October 13, 2015 the Court considered whether the plaintiffs' claims were barred by the statute of limitations under Cooey v. Strickland, whether their claims survived the Supreme Court decision in Baze v. Rees, and whether their claims were rendered moot by subsequent revisions to Kentucky's lethal injection protocol.
First, the court concluded that the plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of limitations. In Cooey v. Strickland the Sixth Circuit considered the accrual of method-of-execution claims and determined that the claim accrues upon the conclusion of direct review of the prisoner's underlying conviction and sentence in the state courts. The Court determined that the plaintiffs' claims accrued on March 31, 1998 and that the one-year statute of limitations for asserting personal injuries applied; thus, the plaintiffs needed to have filed their claims on or before March 31, 1999.
Because the plaintiff's claim was time-barred, the Court did not reach a formal conclusion regarding whether the plaintiff's claims survived the Supreme Court decision in Baze v. Rees
. Finally, the plaintiffs conceded that the adoption of an entirely-new lethal injection protocol over the course of several years between 2010 and 2013 rendered many aspects of their original claim moot. The Court therefore concluded that the plaintiffs' challenge to Kentucky's since-superseded lethal injection protocol was subject to dismissal on mootness grounds. The Court dismissed the plaintiffs' case with prejudice on October 13, 2015. Xin Chen - 03/11/2012
Anna Jones - 02/22/2016