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Executions in Kentucky put on hold

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky executions are on hold after the
state said Friday it won't appeal a ruling that found it failed to
follow proper administrative procedures when it adopted its lethal
injection method.
The state must hold public hearings on the injection method
before it can resume executions.
The Kentucky Supreme Court's 4-3 ruling last month didn't
challenge the technique that has been upheld in the nation's
highest court and is used by dozens of other states. Instead, it
said the state didn't use the proper process for putting it into
place.
The court said the state must hold the hearings and take public
input on the injection technique.
Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet spokeswoman Jennifer
Brislin told The Associated Press on Friday that the state will
file paperwork later this month to start the public hearing
process.
Brislin said the state would have faced a lengthy appeals
process in court if it had tried to fight the court ruling. Brislin
was unsure how long readopting the protocol might take.
"We want there to be a full and open discussion about it,"
Brislin said.
Three death row inmates had challenged how the lethal injection
protocol was adopted.
The court's decision came just days after state Attorney General
Jack Conway requested execution dates for three inmates, including
54-year-old Ralph Baze, who was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Baze, who is awaiting execution for the deaths of a sheriff and
deputy, had previously challenged Kentucky's lethal injection
method in a case that rose all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court
and led all the states using a similar method to Kentucky to halt
lethal injections until it was upheld.
David Barron, the public defender who represented the inmates,
said the decision not to appeal now gives the public an opportunity
to comment on how the state carries out the most severe punishment.
Patrick Delahanty, head of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty, hailed the state's decision.
"It is the first time the public will have a chance to look at
this thing," Delahanty said.
The process for approving the lethal injection protocol includes
a public hearing as well as an opportunity for the public to
comment via e-mails or written letters about different aspects of
the protocol.
The Department of Corrections then can respond to those
comments. The Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee, a
legislative panel, would also review the regulation. The House or
Senate Judiciary committees could also choose to consider the
proposal.
However, even if a legislative committee denies the regulation,
Gov. Steve Beshear can overrule the rejection.
Courts around the country have split over whether states should
have to follow the administrative procedures in adopting a lethal
injection protocol. Courts in Maryland, Nebraska and California
have found that the administrative procedures requirement applies
to lethal injection, while courts in Missouri and Tennessee ruled
that it doesn't.
Kentucky has 35 death-row inmates. The state has executed three
men since reinstating the death penalty in 1976.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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