INDIANAPOLIS – An Indiana appeals court has ruled that the state cannot execute prisoners with a previously unused three-drug combination chosen by corrections officials.
The Indianapolis Star reported that the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the state didn't follow proper procedures when it chose the drugs. The decision comes amid ongoing concerns about botched or painful executions blamed on new execution protocols in several states.
In 2014, the Indiana Department of Corrections unilaterally chose a three-drug process of methohexital, potassium chloride and pancuronium bromide for lethal injections. The combination has not been used for a U.S. execution.
Indiana death row inmate Roy Lee Ward sued the state the next year, arguing the department violated procedures in choosing the new drug. A LaPorte Circuit judge dismissed his claim. But the three-judge Court of Appeals on Thursday found the department violated Ward's rights under the state and federal constitutions.
The Indiana attorney general's office said it is "disappointed" with the decision and is considering an appeal.
The decision means the state cannot execute anyone until it either appeals to the Indiana Supreme Court or holds public hearings to win approval for a new drug combination. The court ruling also requires public officials to seek input from the governor's office and state attorney general before changing lethal injection drugs.
Regardless, the state is in a holding pattern when it comes to executions: Indiana's stock of lethal injection drugs is expired and it seems unlikely the state will be able to replenish them.
Gov. Eric Holcomb added a last-minute provision to an April budget bill that would keep confidential the identities of manufacturers whose drugs are used in lethal injections — as is the case in many death penalty states — in an effort to persuade companies to supply the drugs without fear of public criticism.
Corrections commissioner Rob Carter said in a statement that his staff hasn't been able to secure a new supply.
Indiana has 12 inmates on its death row but no executions are currently scheduled, said corrections spokesman Doug Garrison. The state hasn't executed an inmate since December 2009.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com