----------------from the AZ Republic---------------------
The lawsuit, filed Monday on behalf of three Arizona death row inmates by Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich, claims that a new execution protocol put in place last month gives too much discretion to the state's corrections director. It suggests that the slackening of requirements in the new protocol may not pass muster with a U.S. Supreme Court decision regulating executions by lethal injection.
And the office again questions whether execution drugs purchased secretly in Britain are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
A spokesman said the department had not yet examined the suit and could not comment on it.
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's protocol for lethal injection and invited other states to challenge their own. The Kentucky protocol, in effect, became the baseline for lethal injection, and in 2009, a U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix ruled that Arizona's measured up. That ruling was upheld in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But last December, the same federal judge in Phoenix acknowledged that the DOC had frequently varied from the 2009 court-approved protocol. However, he ruled that the variances were excusable or justifiable and did not violate the rights of death-row prisoners.
Issues in the December court case were that the department consistently used a surgically implanted catheter in the groin instead of less-invasive catheters in an arm or leg to inject the chemicals; that the department had not performed adequate background checks on the executioners; and that some of the chemicals used in executions were not lawfully obtained.
In January, the DOC issued a new protocol, this time giving full discretion to director Charles Ryan on how and where the drugs are injected. It also loosens the experience needed by those people who carry out the execution and gives total authority to Ryan for their selection.
The new lawsuit claims that this may put the state out of compliance with the 2007 Supreme Court decision.
Ryan also gets to choose whether to use a barbiturate called pentobarbital or an older drug, thiopental, which is no longer available in the United States.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has determined that thiopental imported to Arizona for executions in 2010 and 2011 was not lawfully obtained.