Click here to view a brief filed on behalf of five North Carolina death row inmates (Jerry Conner, James Campbell, Archie Billings, Marcus Robinson, and James Thomas).
A little background. You may recall that the whole execution train got derailed back in January when it was determined that the State’s lethal injection protocol was never properly approved by the Council of State. The Council of State quickly OK’d said protocol. The problem? Administrative agencies like the Council are required by law to follow certain procedures, including holding public hearings about proposed rule changes, with which the Council failed to comply. Since then, the attorneys for a number of death row inmates have filed suit in the Office of Administrative Hearings to demand that the Council do things right. The Council responded by filing a motion to dismiss the suit, saying that they don’t have to follow the procedures. Above is the response of the inmates to that motion. Included are several appendices related to attempts made by the attorneys to gain access to the Council of State and prior litigation regarding the lethal injection protocol.
I will grant you that administrative law is not the most exciting thing in the world. Here is why this matters – the hearing that the Council of State should have held would have been the only opportunity for public comment on and revision of the flawed lethal injection protocol. The Council refused to hear from anyone other than the State’s attorneys and ignored evidence that the protocol puts inmates at an unconstitutional and unconscionable risk of dying an agonizing death. The people of North Carolina have been denied any input into this ultimate punishment to be carried out on their behalf.
The Department of Corrections is immune from administrative law regulations. Up until recently, they’ve been pretty much free to make up the execution protocol as they go along. For a while, the DOC was administering half of the barbiturate after the drugs that paralyze the muscles and stop the heart – when the inmate was already dead, and long after the anesthetic could have served its intended purpose. Jonas Salk they’re not. There are aspects of the current lethal injection protocol that are similarly nonsensical. Someone with a hand in designing the protocol ought to have some idea what they’re doing. Quite simply, the Council of State needs to be fully informed before it makes its decision.
Given that not following the rules is what got them into this mess in the first place, you would think the State would be a little more careful. It’s clear that the State just wants these men dead, by any means necessary. Having a lethal injection protocol that doesn’t inflict unnecessary torture on the condemned is not about giving undue dignity to cold-blooded killers. It’s about maintaining our own dignity, lest we become cold-blooded killers ourselves.