Judge tosses inmate's suit filed after execution drug issue

Attorneys claimed convict suffered cruel and unusual punishment

By Kate Brumback
Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by lawyers for a Georgia death row inmate that claimed the state violated their client’s constitutional rights by subjecting her to cruel and unusual punishment.

Kelly Gissendaner was scheduled for execution at 7 p.m. March 2. Corrections officials told reporters about 11 p.m. that night that they were postponing the execution “out of an abundance of caution” because the lethal injection drug appeared “cloudy.” Corrections officials the next day announced a temporary suspension of executions until they could analyze the drug.

Gissendaner’s lawyers filed a complaint a week later saying she had suffered 13 hours of anxiety before that announcement, not knowing whether the state would proceed with her execution and what drugs it might use. Her lawyers also argued that the problem with the lethal injection drug means she could be subject to cruel and unusual punishment when her execution date is rescheduled.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash dismissed the complaint, saying Gissendaner had failed to demonstrate the violation of her Eighth Amendment rights, which protect against cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawyers for Gissendaner and the state did not immediately respond to after-hours requests for comment Monday.

The period of uncertainty between the cancellation of her execution and the announcement that the state would not pursue her execution before the court-ordered window had ended did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment because there’s no evidence state officials intended to inflict pain, Thrash wrote.


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