Three Men Facing Federal Execution Receive Stays

Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a stay of execution for three co-defendants on federal death row who were scheduled to be executed in May. Judge Huvelle's order delays the executions indefinitely and is the result of a lethal injection challenge raised by the three men, James H. Roane Jr., Richard Tipton, and Cory Johnson. This case marks at least the sixth time since January that executions have been stayed after inmates raised challenges to the lethal injection process.

Attorneys for the defendants filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection, claiming that while one of the drugs used "supposedly will render the plaintiffs insensible to the pain of their deaths, it in fact can and will merely cast a 'chemical veil' over this excruciating pain, leaving plaintiffs conscious but trapped in a paralyzed body wracked with the pain of suffocation and heart attack.  At the same time, this 'cocktail' will make it impossible for those observing the execution - including witnesses to it . . . to recognize and prevent the gratuitous pain and suffering being inflicted upon the plaintiffs." Huvelle's order stayed the lawsuit pending the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in a related Florida case. Arguments in the Florida case, Hill v. McDonough, are scheduled to take place on April 26, 2006. As they await the Supreme Court's decision, attorneys for Roane, Tipton, and Johnson have filed paperwork asking President Bush to grant clemency to their clients. (Terre Haute (IN) Tribune Star, March 7, 2006). 

See federal death penalty, DPIC's discussion of the lethal injection issue, U.S. Supreme Court, and upcoming executions.