- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge ruled yesterday that Tennessee’s new lethal-injection procedures are cruel and unusual punishment, interrupting plans to execute a killer next week.

The protocol “presents a substantial risk of unnecessary pain” and violates death-row inmate Edward Jerome Harbison’s constitutional protections under the Eighth Amendment, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger said.

The new protocol, released in April, does not ensure inmates will be properly anesthetized before the lethal injection is administered, Judge Trauger said, which could “result in a terrifying, excruciating death.”

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office said officials are reviewing the ruling and haven’t decided whether to appeal. Gov. Phil Bredesen’s office had no immediate comment.

Harbison was scheduled to be executed early next Wednesday for beating an elderly woman to death during a burglary in 1983.

Judge Trauger did not issue a stay or throw out the death sentence for Harbison, who lost all his appeals. He can legally be executed once the state adopts a valid method of execution, she said.

Mr. Bredesen, a Democrat, in February placed a 90-day moratorium on executions because of several glaring problems with the state’s execution guidelines, including conflicting instructions that mixed lethal-injection instructions with those for the electric chair. Tennessee was one of several states to re-examine its protocol.

George Little, State Department of Correction commissioner, adopted the new protocol despite knowing about the remaining risks of excessive pain for inmates, Judge Trauger said. A spokeswoman for Mr. Little did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The state executed convicted child killer Daryl Holton last week in its first electrocution since 1960.

Mr. Bredesen on Friday commuted a death sentence for Michael Joe Boyd because of “grossly inadequate” legal representation during post-conviction hearings. Boyd, who now goes by Mika’eel Abdullah Abdus-Samad, was convicted of murdering a man during an armed robbery in 1986. The death sentence was commuted to life without possibility of parole.

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