On January 19, 2006, a death-sentenced inmate of the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore, Maryland filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Maryland Department of Correction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The plaintiff, whose execution was scheduled to take place during the week of February 6, 2006, sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants from carrying out his execution using their current practices and procedures for lethal injection. The plaintiff's specific objection was to the three-drug cocktail (sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride) used in Maryland's lethal injections. He alleged that particular skill was required to properly administer sodium pentothal, which was intended to induce general anesthesia, and that improper administration of the drug would lead to excruciating, torturous pain during the administration of the other two drugs. Due to this, the plaintiff argued that the defendants' lethal injection procedures arbitrarily and unnecessarily created a grave risk that he would suffer extreme pain during his execution, thus violating his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The next day, the plaintiff filed a similar complaint in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, naming as co-plaintiffs the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Maryland (ACLU), and the Maryland Citizens Against State Executions (MCASE). In this complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had failed to follow Maryland law (Md. Code Ann., State Gov't §3-905) in adopting their execution protocol because it had not been formally adopted under the Maryland Administrative Procedure Act (MAPA), thereby depriving the state's citizens of the opportunity to ensure that executions were carried out in a proper and humane manner and increasing the risk that the executed prisoners would suffer unnecessarily during their executions. They asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order and to enjoin the defendants from performing any executions until they had come into compliance with the law.
On February 1, 2006, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Judge Benson Everett Legg) denied both the plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order and his motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that Maryland's three-drug protocol did not endanger the plaintiff's constitutional rights. The court reasoned that thirty-five of the thirty-seven states who used lethal injection as a means of execution used the same protocol as Maryland, and that the Fourth Circuit had already ruled that this protocol did not run afoul of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
The plaintiff appealed the following day, asking the District Court to stay the execution pending the outcome of the appeal. On the same day, the District Court (Judge Legg) denied the request to stay the execution. On February 3, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Judge James Harvie Wilkinson III) denied without opinion the plaintiff's motion for an injunction pending appeal.
On February 13, the plaintiff asked the Fourth Circuit to dismiss the appeal, and on February 15, 2006, the Fourth Circuit (Judge Wilkinson) granted that motion.
From September 19-22, 2006, the U.S. District Court held an evidentiary hearing, and both sides filed motions for summary judgment. On December 1, 2006, the District Court ordered the defendants to explore the potential availability of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to assist in the execution. On December 7, 2006, the Court ordered the defendants to submit a written plan describing the parameters of a proposed search.
Meanwhile, on December 19, 2006, the Maryland Court of Appeals invalidated the Maryland execution protocols until such time as they were properly adopted under the MAPA or exempted from that requirement by an act of the Maryland General Assembly. The court enjoined the defendants from utilizing its current lethal injection protocol and checklist until one of these two events occurred. Evans v. Saar, 396 Md. 256 (Md. Ct. App. 2006).
On January 29, 2007, Senate Bill 239 was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly and assigned to committee. If adopted that bill would exempt the death penalty protocols from the requirements of the MAPA. On the same day, House Bill 225 was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly and assigned to committee. If adopted, that bill would repeal the death penalty in Maryland. In light of these rapid changes, the parties issued a joint motion asking the District Court to stay the proceedings in this case until the passage of one of the two proposed bills in the legislature. On February 21, 2007, the District Court agreed to stay the proceedings pending the outcome of the legislation and ordered the parties to file a status report every 90 days.
On March 14, 2011, the parties filed a joint status report pursuant to the Court's order of February 22, 2007. The status report stated that all executions in Maryland had been stayed until the administrative regulations governing the death penalty process are properly adopted. On August 16, 2012 the Court ordered that the case be administratively closed. Subsequently, in May 2013, the Maryland legislature repealed the death penalty for all future convictions, and in December 2014 Governor O'Malley commuted the death sentences
of the four remaining death-row inmates to life without the possibility of parole. Xin Chen - 03/19/2012
Anna Jones - 03/14/2016