On April 11, 2006, Sedley Alley, a death-sentenced inmate at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Tennessee Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Alley complained to the Court that the defendants' lethal injection protocol was unconstitutional, arguing that the executed was not properly anesthetized, allowing him to feel the excrutiating pain caused by the potassium chloride injection. He also argued that the use of the paralytic agent pancuronium bromide was arbitrary and unreasonable because it risked the infliction of torture, causing the executed to suffocate due to the inability to use his lungs. Alley asked the Court to enjoin the defendants from "using, seeking to obtain, ordering, writing a prescription, writing a physician's order, prescribing, dispensing, or in any other manner transferring to Defendant Bell or any other defendants involved in the execution process pancuronium bromide in any form whatsoever." He also asked the Court to declare the defendants' lethal injection protocol unconstitutional.
The day after the complaint was filed, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee (Judge Aleta A. Trauger) transferred the case to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee because the plaintiff already had a case pending there. On the same day, the plaintiff asked the Middle District of Tennessee to reconsider the transfer of the case, and the next day, the Court agreed to reconsider the case transfer, noting that the defendants had not opposed the plaintiff's wish to keep the case in the Middle District.
On April 19, 2006, the defendants asked the District Court to dismiss the case, arguing that the plaintiff had not demonstrated any likelihood that his complaint would prevail at trial. On May 2, 2006, the District Court (Judge Trauger) ordered that the defendants' motion to dismiss would be held in abeyance pending the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hill v. McDonough (CJ-FL-2). Alley v. Little, 2006 WL 1207611 (M.D.Tenn. May 2, 2006). On May 11, 2006, the District Court stayed Alley's execution pending further orders of the court.
The defendants appealed the District Court's orders holding the motion to dismiss in abeyance and staying the execution. On May 12, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Chief Judge Danny Julian Boggs) held that the lethal injection protocol at issue was not cruel and unusual punishment, and that Alley was not entitled to a preliminary injunction staying his execution. The court then vacated the District Court's orders. Alley v. Little, No. 06-5650, 181 Fed.Appx. 509 (6th Cir. 2006). The plaintiff asked the Sixth Circuit to rehear the case en banc, and four days later, the Sixth Circuit denied the petition for rehearing.
On June 12, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a slip opinion in Hill v. McDonough in which it held that a prisoner's lethal injection challenge could be brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and did not have to be brought as a habeas claim, so long as the prisoner was only challenging the method of injection instead of challenging lethal injection as a general matter.
Two days after the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Hill was issued, the District Court (Judge Trauger) granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the case, noting the Supreme Court's reiteration of a state's "important interest in the timely enforcement of a sentence," and finding that Alley had brought this lawsuit merely to delay his execution, rather than to address a legitimate violation of his rights. Alley v. Little, No. 06-0340, 2006 WL 1697207 (M.D.Tenn. Jun.14, 2006).
Alley appealed the dismissal of his case, and on June 24, 2006, the Sixth Circuit (Judge Boggs) affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the case, finding that Alley's case was extremely unlikely to succeed on the merits, and that he had brought the lawsuit merely to delay his execution. Alley v. Little, 186 Fed.Appx. 604 (6th Cir. 2006). Alley applied to the Sixth Circuit for a rehearing en banc, which was denied three days later. Alley v. Little, 452 F.3d 621 (6th Cir. 2006). Alley then applied to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of his execution, and on July 17, 2006, (which was actually after his execution) the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition.
On June 28, 2006, Sedley Alley was executed by lethal injection. Kristen Sagar - 09/13/2007