Lawyers: Uncertainty over execution drug requires review

By Kathleen Foody
Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) - Attorneys for a Georgia woman on death row say apparent uncertainty about what caused cloudiness in a lethal injection drug strengthens their argument that she not be put to death until a judge determines her rights won't be violated.

In a court filing late Thursday, attorneys for Kelly Renee Gissendaner asked a judge to order the state to disclose information for a "meaningful inquiry" into the storage and delivery of the compounded pentobarbital and the pharmacists' procedures.

They also asked the judge to deny a motion from the state to dismiss a complaint by Gissendaner that her civil rights were being violated.

State officials on March 2 called off Gissendaner's execution, saying the drug they intended to use appeared "cloudy."

The Georgia Department of Corrections said in an April 16 news release that an expert's analysis found "the most likely cause" was shipping and storing the drug at a temperature that was too low.

Along with the news release, the department released lab reports, a sworn statement from the expert hired by the state and a short video showing a syringe of clear liquid with chunks of a white solid floating in it.

But Georgia prison officials filed court documents last week revealing that a separate test done by the department and completed April 3 indicated cold storage temperatures may not have been to blame for the "cloudy" appearance of the drug. A new sample of the drug stored at a cold temperature was not affected, according to those documents.

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections was not available for comment early Friday.

Gissendaner is the only woman on Georgia's death row and would have been the first woman executed by the state in 70 years. She was convicted of murder in the February 1997 slaying of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. Prosecutors said she conspired with her lover, Gregory Owen, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death. Owen is serving a life sentence and is eligible for parole in eight years.

Published: Mon, Jun 15, 2015

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