Execution witness observed serious lethal injection
By Jason Bennert, Bay City News Service
September 27, 2006
SAN JOSE (BCN) - A Columbia University medical school
anesthesiologist this morning criticized the team that performs
inmate executions in California as being untrained, uncaring and
unable to follow the state's written execution procedure.
Dr. Mark Heath is the main expert witness retained by the attorneys
for condemned killer Michael Morales in their quest to convince
U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel that California's lethal
injection procedure violates the Constitution's ban on "cruel
and unusual punishment" because there exists the possibility
that condemned inmates could experience excruciating pain from
the drugs used in the procedure.
Heath reviewed depositions given by California's execution team
members and said he found serious flaws in their conduct during
California's most recent executions.
"They don't seem to have a handle on what's going on,"
He found security problems with the execution team being around
the controlled substances used in the lethal injections. One team
member has been suspended in the past "for bringing illegal
drugs into the prison," Heath said.
When the sodium thiopental, the drug used to render the condemned
inmate unconscious, began being packaged in smaller doses, the
team stopped following the state's execution procedure for anesthetizing
a condemned inmate, Heath testified. They basically started making
it up as they went along in the Clarence Ray Allen execution in
January, according to Heath.
"They're testifying that they are deviating from the protocol,
the most important part of the protocol," Heath said.
The nurse who prepares the sodium thiopental testified that she
is not even interested in learning about the drug, according to
"She's being negligent. It's the most important part of
the procedure," Heath said.
The anesthesia is the most important part of the lethal injection
because the other two drugs used in the proposed procedure will
both cause excruciating pain if the inmate is not unconscious
when they are administered, Heath testified.
Despite his criticisms of the execution team members, Heath said
they are not the reason that California's proposed execution procedure
"They're doing the best they can in a very dysfunctional
system," Heath said.
Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication,
Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent
of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.