Judge declines to stop lethal injection hearing

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Saying he does not have authority over the
General Assembly, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on
Wednesday declined to halt a legislative hearing on Kentucky's
proposed execution method.
Shepherd also said he would be inclined to allow several items
from the state's now-defunct procedures to be unsealed at the
hearing, which is scheduled for Monday.
Shepherd's ruling came at a hearing on challenge brought by an
attorney for three death row inmates, who wanted parts of the
state's old protocol made public and aired before lawmakers.
The state objected to unsealing parts of the old protocol,
saying they weren't relevant to what's currently under
consideration and the public already had a chance to comment on the
method.
"It's a little difficult to see why that information should
remain under seal," Shepherd said, adding he hoped to rule on that
issue by Friday.
Kentucky is in the process of readopting its lethal injection
procedures four months after the state Supreme Court ruled that the
state improperly enacted its execution method. The legislative
subcommittee has scheduled the hearing to consider the proposed
procedure as part of the reenactment process, which eventually
leads to approval or rejection by Gov. Steve Beshear.
Department of Public Advocacy attorney David Barron filed an
emergency motion with Shepherd on behalf of condemned inmates Ralph
Baze, Thomas Clyde Bowling and Brian Keith Moore, asking the judge
to halt the legislative hearing and make public 11 items from
Kentucky's former execution protocol.
Shepherd disclosed that the 11 items involve the schedule of
what happened in the days and hours leading up to an execution and
are not included in the proposed protocol made public in January.
The old protocol remains hidden from public view after being sealed
in several court challenges to lethal injection.
Barron said he wants the 11 items made public so he can discuss
them with the legislative committee without running afoul of court
orders.
"No member of the general public knows what was in the prior
protocols," Barron said.
Kentucky Justice Cabinet attorney Steve Lynn said there's no
need to stop the hearing or unseal anything from the prior
protocols because the public had an opportunity in January to
comment on the method under consideration. After that hearing, the
Justice Cabinet weighed the comments and made some changes to the
protocol, Lynn said. Monday's hearing is not a replay of the public
hearing, he said.
"The purpose of the hearing is to give the legislature
oversight," Lynn said.
Kentucky's proposed protocol covers a variety of areas related
to executions, including details about the handling of the
chemicals used, and how to stop the execution of an inmate who
drops appeals and volunteers to die, but changes his or her mind
once the process starts.
Kentucky uses three drugs in an execution - sodium thiopental, a
fast-acting sedative; pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis;
and potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest.
The proposed protocol also adds details to how an electrocution
would be conducted, as well as how to handle a pregnant death row
inmate.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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