LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A Kentucky inmate condemned to death for
the shootings of a sheriff and deputy has asked the governor to
delay setting his execution date as his attorneys prepare for a
death warrant to be signed.
Attorneys for Ralph Stevens Baze filed a letter with Gov. Steve
Beshear, saying multiple circumstances should prompt a delay in
setting an execution date.
Public defenders Dennis Burke and David Barron said the current
economic struggles of the state, along with several pending legal
issues should halt any execution.
Baze, 54, was convicted in 1992 of killing Powell County Sheriff
Steve Bennett and Deputy Arthur Briscoe in eastern Kentucky as they
tried to serve arrest warrants from Ohio on him. The Kentucky
Attorney General has requested an execution date for Baze, which is
under consideration by Beshear.
Burke and Barron said executions are expensive and a better
course of action would be to wait until the economic crisis has
passed before spending money on a lethal injection.
"Under these trying economic circumstances, the citizens of
Kentucky would be best served if executions and all of its costs
are held off until this economic crisis passes," Barron and Burke
The attorneys also cited a national shortage of sodium
thiopental, one of the three drugs Kentucky uses in a lethal
The anesthetic is produced by Hospira Inc., of Lake Forest,
Ill., which attributed the shortage to "manufacturing issues" in
a May 4 bulletin. The drug should be available at some point in the
third quarter, which runs from July through September. Hospira is
the only company in the world that makes the drug.
"With this shortage, it would be wise to save the limited
available thiopental for actual medical procedures, rather than
executions," the attorneys wrote.
Baze also has pending legal challenges, including contesting how
Kentucky adopted the current lethal injection protocol and whether
he can interview prison staff for a clemency petition. Those
challenges could result in a court stopping any execution from
going forward, Burke and Barron said.
Baze was the lead plaintiff in a case the U.S. Supreme Court
used in 2008 to rule that the lethal injection protocol used by
nearly three dozen states did not amount to cruel and unusual
Since then, Baze has twice come within weeks of being executed,
only to have the courts halt the procedures while Baze filed
appeals of various legal issues.
Baze told The Associated Press in September 2007, that he was
acting in self defense during the shootings, but will go without a
fight if courts don't overturn his sentence.
"I've never tried to hide, good or bad, any of it," Baze said.
"I'll take my punishment."
Kentucky has executed three people since 1976. Harold McQueen
was executed in the electric chair in 1997 for killing a
convenience store clerk in 1981. Eddie Lee Harper was executed by
lethal injection in 1999. Marco Allen Chapman was executed by
lethal injection in November.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)