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Judge Moves to Delay Federal Execution Scheduled for Monday

  • July 13, 2020

But the government has been fighting off legal challenges to the single-drug technique. Last month, the Supreme Court let stand an appeals court ruling that found the government was in compliance with the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994, which requires executions to be carried out “in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed.” Judge Chutkan had found the government in violation of the law.

In her ruling on Monday, Judge Chutkan wrote that lethal injection by pentobarbital could expose the inmates to the risk of flash pulmonary edema, or the rapid buildup of fluid in the lungs that resembles the feeling of drowning or asphyxiation. Before the inmates could be put to death, the judicial system must decide whether the protocol violates their protections against cruel and unusual punishment, she ruled.

“The government has been trying to plow forward with these executions despite many unanswered questions about the legality of its new execution protocol,” said Shawn Nolan, a lawyer for one of the men scheduled to be executed this summer, in a statement.

The Justice Department has repeatedly invoked the justice owed to the murder victims to underscore the need for a speedy execution for the four men scheduled to die this summer.

Mr. Lee’s trial judge, his prosecutor, and several members of the victims’ family pleaded with the government to commute his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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