- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Challenges to Alabama’s three-drug lethal injection procedure for executions will proceed in federal court after a judge denied the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuits and rejected a suggestion from the inmates to use a large dose of a sedative as an alternate method.

U.S. District Judge William Keith Watkins issued an order Thursday denying the state’s requests to dismiss lawsuits from death row inmates David Lee Roberts, Robin Dion Myers, Carey Dale Grayson, Gregory Hunt and Demetrius Frazier.

The inmates argued the state’s three-drug lethal injection procedure violates their civil rights. Each inmate was asked to suggest an alternate means of execution. One of the suggestions included in their amended lawsuits was a large single dose of the sedative midazolam.

The Alabama Attorney General’s office filed a response saying it accepted that alternative and asking the judge to either approve it or dismiss the lawsuits.

Watkins denied the state’s suggestion and ordered the five lawsuits to be combined. A status hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Alabama announced in 2014 it was switching to a new three-drug combination that includes midazolam. The state’s execution protocol calls for using midazolam first to sedate inmates before administering additional drugs to stop the lungs and heart.

Midazolam is the sedative that Oklahoma first used in the April 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett. That execution - which lasted more than 40 minutes - led to a lawsuit that ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in June that use of the drug does not violate the Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Inmates have argued that midazolam is ineffective and wouldn’t render them unconscious before the other drugs stopped their lungs and heart.

Another Alabama inmate, Tommy Arthur, has argued that the use of midazolam is cruel and unusual punishment. His attorney has said the way the sedative is administered in Alabama is different from the Oklahoma process that the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed. Watkins earlier this week also denied the state’s motion to dismiss Arthur’s lawsuit.

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