More than two dozen Tennessee death row inmates have filed a lawsuit against the state saying the drug cocktail to be used for executions does not work properly and causes unnecessary pain and torture.
The suit, filed on Tuesday in Davidson County Chancery Court by lawyers representing 33 prisoners currently on death row in Tennessee, alleges that the controversial three-drug mixture the state plans on using violates constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment, the Tennessean reports.
The lawsuit states that the drugs, which Tennessee has not yet used, has resulted in botched executions in other states.
33 prisoners on death row in Tennessee claim that a three-drug cocktail, which includes the sedative midazolam, used to execute inmates does not work properly and has caused botched executions in other states
Death row inmates in Tennessee are suing the state saying the controversial lethal injection drugs used for executions cause unnecessary pain and torture
Billy Ray Irick (pictured) is scheduled to be executed on August 9. The 59-year-old was convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl
‘What Tennessee is proposing to do amounts to torturing prisoners to death, which we know because we’ve seen this protocol fail in other states,’ Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender Kelley J. Henry said, one of the lawyers representing the inmates.
‘You cannot break the law in order to enforce the law, which is what this new lethal injection protocol does … To use this torturous protocol requires pharmacists, doctors, and prison officials to act illegally.’
According to the outlet, the lawsuit states that prison officials have already been warned that one of the drugs, midazolam, does not always work as its supposed to.
Midazolam, the first drug administered to inmates during the execution, is supposed to put the prisoner in an unconscious state.
However, the drug supplier told prison officials in an email that midazolam sometimes failed to render the inmate unconscious leaving them clear and alert.
‘Here is my concern with midazolam … it does not elicit strong analgesic effects. The subjects may be able to feel pain from the administration of the second and third drugs. Potassium chloride especially,’ the email read. ‘It may not be a huge concern but can open the door to some scrutiny on your end.’
James Hawkins (pictured) was convicted in 2011 of killing the mother of his three children. The 41-year-old is scheduled to die May 9
Sedrick Clayton (pictured), 34, was convicted of a triple murder in 2014 and is scheduled to die November 28
The second drug in the cocktail, vecuronium bromide, is supposed to essentially paralyze the inmate making it appear as if they are not in pain. The suit states that the third drug, potassium chloride, causes a pain ‘similar to being burned alive from the inside’.
The lawyers are asking that the chancery court declare the drug mixture unconstitutional because use of the lethal injection would cause ‘(needless) experience (of) terror, pain, and suffocation during execution,’ according to the Nashville Scene.
There are currently 60 inmates on death row in Tennessee. Last week, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery pushed for eight offenders to get execution dates before June 1. They are planning to file their own lawsuits arguing why an execution should not be scheduled in their case, the Tennessean reports.
The lawsuit on Tuesday will most likely delay dates for those eight inmates as well as the already scheduled execution of James Hawkins on May 9. Hawkins, 41, was convicted in 2011 of killing the mother of his three children.
Hawkins’ execution would be the first in the state since December 2009. Other already scheduled executions include Billy Ray Irick on August 9 and Sedrick Clayton on November 28.
Irick, 59, was convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl and Clayton, 34, was convicted in 2014 of a triple murder.