Supreme Court To Hear Three Challenges In Baze Case

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky Supreme Court will look at
various aspects of the state's death penalty system when it hears
multiple challenges to lethal injection by condemned inmate Ralph
The high court on Wednesday agreed to take up all three issues
Baze raised when he sought to stop his execution, which was
scheduled for Sept. 25. The court halted the execution and set a
morning of oral arguments about lethal injection for Nov. 15.
The rulings gave Baze and his attorneys a clean sweep before the
The court will consider whether Kentucky should hold public
hearings on its execution protocol after it changed how a lethal
injection is administered. The court will also discuss whether a
judge improperly moved Baze's trial for the 1992 shooting deaths of
a Powell County sheriff and deputy.
The court also agreed to consider whether Dr. Mark Dershwitz,
professor of anesthesiology at the University of Massachusetts,
testified inaccurately in a 2005 trial over the constitutionality
of lethal injection.
"This is as many oral arguments as we've gotten since I got
here in July 2004," said David Barron, one of Baze's public
The justices granted the slate of arguments on Wednesday as they
stopped Baze's execution. The justices said the appeals were filed
before Gov. Ernie Fletcher set Baze's execution date, so the inmate
had a right to be heard. Baze was condemned to death for the
January 1992 shootings of Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett and
Deputy Arthur Briscoe.
Attorney General Greg Stumbo said his office will continue to
press for Baze's execution and fight any court challenges.
"We are confident that any remaining issues will be resolved in
the Commonwealth's favor," Stumbo said.
Baze challenged whether his trial was properly moved first from
Powell County to Frankfort, then to Rowan County. A state judge
rejected that claim last month.
A judge struck down a request by Baze and fellow Death Row
inmate Thomas Clyde Bowling to require the state to hold public
hearings on the execution protocol. Bowling, 54, and Baze, 52,
challenged the lethal injection method in Franklin County Circuit
Court in 2005, saying the Kentucky Department of Corrections did
not follow state-mandated administrative procedures before
instituting it.
The Department of Corrections changed the mixture of drugs used
in a lethal injection after Bowling and Baze challenged the
constitutionality of lethal injection in a case they lost.
In that challenge, Dershwitz was the state's lone witness. He
testified that the drugs Kentucky uses would put an inmate to
sleep, paralyze him and kill him without causing undue pain or
suffering. Dershwitz said each of the three drugs Kentucky uses
would kill someone in the doses the state uses.
Baze's attorneys claim that Dershwitz's testimony in Kentucky
was inaccurate and contradicts testimony he gave in similar cases
in North Carolina and Maryland.
"He was the only expert to testify for the state, increasing
the importance of his testimony," Barron said.
Bowling was sentenced to death for killing Edward and Tina
Earley and shooting their 2-year-old son outside the couple's
Lexington dry-cleaning business in 1990.
Kentucky has 40 death-row inmates, including 11 that have been
there for more than two decades. The state has executed two men
since reinstating the death penalty in 1976, and only one by
injection: Eddie Lee Harper in 1999.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • by Brad Location: Frankfort on Sep 25, 2007 at 12:15 AM


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