Lethal injection protocols not 'cruel and unusual,' judge rules

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 3:22pm

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled Wednesday that the state’s revised protocol for lethal injections is constitutional.

Bonnyman’s ruling found that the protocol does not violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and its prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

“The court takes no pleasure in ruling on a case in which a life and lives hang in the balance,” Bonnyman said before delivering her ruling.

She said the state’s changes to the lethal injection process, adding checks for consciousness, “seem to address” issues raised by the plaintiff, condemned prisoner Stephen Michael West.

In addition, West and his attorneys did not present a sufficient alternative “to significantly reduce the risk of severe pain,” the chancellor added.

The new checks included a prison official brushing a hand over the condemned prisoner’s eyelashes, saying his or her name and gently shaking the prisoner to check for responsiveness after the first in a three-drug lethal injection cocktail is administered and before continuing with the execution process.

The state attorney general’s office would have to file a motion for the Tennessee Supreme Court to set a new execution date for West, but state attorneys would have to review Bonnyman’s written order first, said Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

West filed a lawsuit last fall challenging the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol, claiming the process is cruel and unusual punishment, and violates the condemned prisoner’s rights because the first drug in the mixture, sodium thiopental, does not render the prisoner fully unconscious before the last two drugs are administered, causing pain to the individual.

Last month, West’s lawyers argued the new step in the execution process meant to ensure a prisoner was unconscious wasn’t enough and prisoners would likely experience great pain equivalent to torture.

Just before Thanksgiving, Bonnyman ruled the previous method of execution — without the check for unconsciousness — was unconstitutional and likely caused still-conscious prisoners to suffocate before the other drugs in the three-step process were fully administered.

In December, the state Supreme Court stayed four upcoming executions, including West’s, in an about-face — whereas just a few days earlier, it had decided to move forward with the executions. The justices then moved to hold new hearings on the issue and remanded it back to Davidson County Chancery Court.

In 1987, West was convicted of kidnapping and fatally stabbing Wanda Romines and her 15-year-old daughter, Sheila Romines, in Union County in 1986. He was also convicted of raping the teenager.

 

21 Comments on this post:

By: spooky24 on 2/16/11 at 4:30

You guys are improving and this article given 8.5. Your only grammar mistake was a compound mistake that voids the entire paragraph.

Tennessee Supreme Court to set a new execution date for West, but state attorneys would have to review Bonnyman’s written order first, said Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

Should read: Tennessee Supreme Court to set a new execution date for West, but state attorneys would have to review Bonnyman’s written order first, said Sharon Curtis-Flair, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

The spokeswoman could also be used. I would suggest a review of Simplification and Personalization of English Grammar.

sp

By: bsaut on 2/16/11 at 5:35

The faster they strap these no account murderers to the gurney and start the injection process, the better and safer I feel. If he criminals saw justice administered in a more rapid fashion, maybe they would not put themselves in a position that could result in the death penalty. Additionally, if they object to lethal injection, we could always bring back the firing squad.

By: yogiman on 2/16/11 at 6:03

Now, let's see, the VIII Amendment reads; "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted."

Apparently the gentleman has not been fined excessively nor has cruel or unusual punishments been inflicted on him, so he is entitled to death.

I believe he has earned his right to death. I would argue he should be put to death in the same manner in which he imposed his victims. But apparently our government don't want to hurt him.

For a non-painful state of elimination I believe a better, faster, and less painful method would be to ask for six volunteers (yeah, use our old State's nickname). Load five of those weapons with a heavy duty bullet. When the volunteers approach the shooting range, issue each of them one of the guns. No one will know which one is empty so they won't know if they fired a fatal shot or not, leaving their conscious clean.

And the receiver won't know what the hell hit him. He will not feel any pain.

By: dargent7 on 2/17/11 at 7:46

Auwe!
I remember when I was 14, getting my two wisdom teeth taken out.
I got a "general" anesthetic and couldn't count back from 100.
Give these guys a "general", then administer the lethal. They're asleep, and won't feel a thing.
Up until they meet Jesus Christ and God where I'm sure they both want to hear their story.

By: Antisocialite on 2/17/11 at 10:01

http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/Repository/RE/deathpenalty.pdf

Here is our own comptroller's report on the death penalty.

The verdict? Costly and of suspect deterrence.

Here's a few highlights:

-Death penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment.

-Tennessee District Attorneys General are not consistent in their pursuit of the death penalty.

-Surveys and interviews of district attorneys indicate that some prosecutors "use the death penalty as a 'bargaining chip' to secure plea bargains for lesser sentences."

-Previous research provides no clear indication whether the death penalty acts as a method of crime prevention.

-The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed 29 percent of capital cases on direct appeal.

Anyone claiming to be fiscally conservative and supporting the death penalty is either ignorant of the costs involved, or more interested in vengeance than saving costs... just sayin'.

By: tenn40 on 2/17/11 at 10:27

Antisocialite,
If some monster raped your 15 year old teenage daughter, then brutally stabbed her and your wife to death, you would NOT want to see the death penalty? Yeah right! Just sayin..........

By: Antisocialite on 2/17/11 at 11:14

If some monster raped your 15 year old teenage daughter, then brutally stabbed her and your wife to death, you would NOT want to see the death penalty? Yeah right! Just sayin..........

So you admit that it is vengeance, and not a desire for what is best for the country or state that drives your support of the death penalty then tenn40?

By: not_guilty on 2/17/11 at 11:49

Steven West was also convicted of raping one of his victims. I have asked repeatedly before, and no one has responded. Do those who argue the eye-for-eye position believe that the State of Tennessee should employ someone to rape Mr. West before another official of the State injects toxic chemicals into his veins?

Why or why not?

By: MetalMan on 2/17/11 at 12:02

We don't need lethal injection. It's too expensive and humane. We need either a firing squad or an electric bench. The latter would be preferable; that way we could do 5 or 6 at a time and stop spending money housing murderers and rapists.

By: whatsit2u on 2/17/11 at 12:16

Are you looking for an application not_guilty? What's your point?

By: Antisocialite on 2/17/11 at 1:30

MetalMan said:
We don't need lethal injection. It's too expensive and humane. We need either a firing squad or an electric bench. The latter would be preferable; that way we could do 5 or 6 at a time and stop spending money housing murderers and rapists.

The method of execution is not what is expensive, it is the money spent on resources for the appeals process that makes the costs enormous. Also, if the money spent on housing prisoners is at the top of your priority list then may I suggest that you concentrate on freeing the hundreds of thousands of non-violent drug offenders rather than killing the three thousand death row prisoners in our country. I think you'll find that monetarily this makes a lot more sense.

By: wolfy on 2/17/11 at 3:06

Vengeance works for me.....

By: Antisocialite on 2/17/11 at 3:18

At least you are being honest with yourself wolfy... just don't claim it's conservative.

By: yogiman on 2/17/11 at 3:46

If a person is seen to perform a death on someone. Isn't that guilty beyond any reasonable doubt? And then, are they entitled to the next umpteen years in court costing umpteen dollars to the point they "might not be guilty", when is is known they are. why waste that money.

I'm a firm believer in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Eliminate them quick. Save that money for the next one.

By: TITAN1 on 2/17/11 at 4:08

Screw conservative! Torture them, then kill them.

By: GUARDIAN on 2/17/11 at 9:09

GUARDIAN-There's lots of cheaper ways. How about ending their life in the same way they took a life.

By: wataboutbob on 2/18/11 at 5:25

A life sentence without the possibility of parole and being placed in the prison general population would be the worst punishment we could impose on these scum.
I guarantee it would not be quick and painless but long and torturous.

By: gdiafante on 2/18/11 at 8:23

I think some people can't distinguish between revenge and justice.

This country seems to have a blood-lust while simultaneously espousing how Christian it is.

Circling the drain...

By: wataboutbob on 2/18/11 at 9:11

Fine line between revenge and justice. Justice for the victims can be construed as revenge.
What is "an eye for an eye", revenge or justice?

By: Community-carl-... on 2/18/11 at 4:13

If an accused murderer continues to be found guilty after 3 appeals, then the appeals process should end and everyone should consider the criminal guilty as charged. The mindless, unending appeals over many years is what has made execution costs so extremely expensive. The end result of ongoing appeals is delayed justice, and greedy lawyers getting fat on the public's dollars.

By: justice2003 on 1/3/12 at 3:40

Did you know that? During the time i was incarserated i was stuck with a neddle by the Chinese charge nurse in intake.I never killed anyone,I only got into a schuffel with four jailers.soon afterwards,My arm blew up the size of a football untreated for over 18 days and i was told the reason i was never seen was that i denied treatment evertime they came by my cell.I soon filed a federal lawsuit because they really tried to kill me only because they knew who i was since the year 2003 when they deliberatelly falsified documents on me and the ones who was behind it were tennessees super commettee under phil brenisons admistration who reacentelly been endorsed by the presedent.Mental healthJudge Earnistine was also involved,He sent indepentent contractor James cassey inside the davidson county jailhouse getting paid top dollor without any medical linsence during the time i was there in the year 2010 of oct 1.