NC Lethal Injection Battle

Started by Jeff1857, March 07, 2007, 12:47:14 AM

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N.C. execution doctor didn't measure inmates' consciousness

The doctor who's attended at least 18 of North Carolina's last 20 executions says he never monitored the condemned man's level of consciousness.

Dr. Obi Umesi says he wouldn't have done that even if prison officials had asked. Umsei tells The News and Observer of Raleigh that he wouldn't participate in an execution and that he wouldn't voluntarily take a life.

But in a 188-page deposition released by the state Attorney General's Office, Umesi says he viewed the readings during those executions on the brain-wave monitor. Umesi was in a small observation room during the state's last 2 executions.

In January, the North Carolina Medical Board declared that any doctor who participates in an execution violates medical ethics and could face sanction. The dispute has led a judge to place 5 scheduled executions on hold.

Umesi told the newspaper that he didn't violate medical ethics because he was only present during the executions.

Yeah right. I'm sure he was just sitting there.

ScoopD (aka: Pam)

I believe he was just sitting there. I don't think many Doctors would risk their license getting involved in an execution.

You know, this whole lethal injection issue is just plain ole bullshyt. Whenever someone goes into surgery there is no 100% guarantee that it will go as planned or that something won't go horribly wrong. Here we are dealing with an issue where the "patient" is going under anesthesia to DIE, why does anyone care what they feel? I just dont get it. Where is my 100% guarantee that I won't feel anything the next time I am put under the same drug the inmates get first?
<br /><br />If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. -Thomas Paine<br /><br />My reason for supporting capital punishment: My cousin 16 yr. old Amanda Greenwell was murdered in March of 2004 at the hands of serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.


I'm not 100 per cent sure but I'm reasonably sure that NC got the brainwave monitoring system in place FOR the doctor to monitor. Maybe Dio knows a little bit more about it than I do but I believe I'm right. Either way the med board has screwed this all up. What I don't understand is why my state can't consult Tx and adopt their same procedures.

ScoopD (aka: Pam)

Wouldn't that be too easy? Just send a couple of guys over to texas, copy every step of their procedure and get it down in the books..   seems simple enough.
<br /><br />If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. -Thomas Paine<br /><br />My reason for supporting capital punishment: My cousin 16 yr. old Amanda Greenwell was murdered in March of 2004 at the hands of serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.


Maybe TOO simple for us carolina people.  ;D ;D


It is my understanding that until the Willie Brown execution NC paid no heed to the level of consciousness, never heard it mentioned if they did and I've read about most every one of them to date.Prior to Brown all the Dr did according to what I've read is pronounce death....I believe he watched a heart monitor and waited for a 2 or 3 minute flatline....As far as I know the Dr was never in the chamber during the execution,and played no role until the flatline was saw.....up to Brown anyway


Greetings from The United Kingdom,

My God, here you all go again! Does it hurt? Doesn't it hurt? Who is right & who is wrong? What part does a doctor play? How goes the appeals procedure? How much money have the Briefs (attorneys) made?  :D

Does it really all matter...? If you gonna do it then for God's sake JUST DO IT!!!

Seeing how you guys couldn't quite get hold of the 'Short Drop' hanging method maybe you ought to revert back to Execution by Shooting. Maybe one of the Firing Squad will be able to find h/her target without having to rely on a Doctor to maybe or maybe not determine this fact or that fact, be  there or not be there, be in contempt of this oath or that oath, contribute to a more 'Humane' ( ;D ;D) method of execution...

My God! I said it many times before on this site, WHY is The U.S.A. so reluctant to carry out the sentence of the law with regards to the dp?

Peter M.


Here is another article by that J. Smith, but my respect for him has greatly diminished (He just tore Montreal apart in another article, what a fruit lol jk).

He also had this to say about most of you guys on the board:

"Those who long for vengeance have a true commitment, and are no vapid trend-followers."

He also suggested as the next method of execution "flesh-eating ants".

You have to acknowledge the guy has a gift for writing !


Lethal Injection and Other Fashion Trends
By Justin E. H. Smith

"Execution by lethal injection is these days commonly described in the media as 'putting to death' (e.g., an AP article of June 28, 2006 announces: "'Railroad Killer' Put to Death in Texas"). This phrase, along with the more overtly veterinary 'putting down', seems to suggest that the creature in question is only being relieved of its misery, that it is a being morally and biologically ready for death, and that the operation performed upon it is really just a facilitation of the inevitable. The moral acceptability, even the necessity, of the act is built into the term used to describe it. And the result of this semantic legerdemain is a passive assumption on the part of the public that lethal injection agrees with our sense of the sanctity of life and of the importance of compassionate death for all, while hangings, firing-squads, electric chairs, guillotines, and gas chambers are, in contrast, distant memories from our barbaric past.

How did this shift in public perception of lethal injection come about? And how much empirical evidence as to the suffering it involves will have to be accumulated before we move on to another method (flesh-eating ants? hemlock?) and in turn denounce today's preferred technique? Numerous legal cases have recently challenged the use of lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment, in view of the mounting evidence that, when the first drug in the cocktail, the anesthetic, is administered incorrectly, the following two drugs cause excruciating pain as they move through the veins to the heart. This evidence means that, in all likelihood, lethal injection will soon go the way of hanging and decapitation, and it is crucial at this pivotal moment that abolitionists not permit some other temporarily satisfactory, but ultimately no less cruel method to take its place.

Lethal injection was first proposed in the 1880s by Julius Mount Bleyer, a New York doctor who believed that this new technique, made possible by the same medical advances that were simultaneously facilitating massive advances in public health, would be more humane, and more 'modern', than hanging. At precisely the same time, however, electricity was finding ever more applications, as prominent figures (among them Thomas Edison), described its many uses with near-utopian optimism. It was in this cultural context that Bleyer's needles were rejected at the end of the 19th century in favor of what was improbably described as a more humane alternative: the electric chair. Too many malfunctions to count soon made it clear that this was not the perfect solution either, and throughout the mid-20th century we see a number of methods tried out, none to anyone's perfect satisfaction. The British Royal Commission on Capital Punishment reports in 1954 that "[n]either electrocution nor the gas chamber have a balance of advantages over hanging. The method of lethal injections has too many difficulties but should be re-examined in light of progress in anaesthetics."

In the United States, electrocution and other various methods were employed until the mid-1970s, when Oklahoma's state medical examiner, Jay Chapman, returned to the idea Bleyer had proposed nearly a century earlier, though with a somewhat more complicated recipe: "An intravenous saline drip," Chapman proposed, "shall be started in the prisoner's arm, into which shall be introduced a lethal injection consisting of an ultra-short-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic." The method was swiftly enacted into law in Oklahoma, but first employed in Texas in 1982. It is now the sole method of execution permitted in most states, and by far the most common one actually employed.

Of course, the most famous effort to humanize execution came a century before Bleyer and Edison, with the joint effort of Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a doctor and member of the French Revolutionary National Assembly, and Antoine Louis, a member of the French Surgeons' Academy. Unlike the methods used under the ancien régime -- hanging for commoners and decapitation with a sword for aristocrats -- the guillotine was promoted as both efficient and egalitarian. As would happen later with the electric chair and lethal injection, it was praised for its power to swiftly and painlessly dispatch lives" at least until it was discovered that a severed head can remain conscious, and even interact with doctors by means of coordinated blinks, for up to thirty seconds after its separation from the body.

Even before the Enlightenment, the ideal of compassionate execution often influenced the way observers and facilitators act at the scene of the killing.

The French historian Robert Muchembled has chronicled the changing attitudes towards execution in Europe from the 15th to the 18th centuries. In certain times and places, we may discern a desire for exacting vengeance on the condemned in the cruelest and most painful way possible. At other moments, the criminal is accompanied to his death by throngs of weeping nuns, who sprinkle him with holy water, and whisper to him reassuringly of God's love and of the promise of redemption, and who ensure that death arrives both swiftly and gently. Yet the more compassion is showered on the condemned, the more his death takes on the character of a human sacrifice: the pagan Greeks wept too as they led bulls to the altar, though they refrained from offering fellow humans for the appeasement of their gods. One may be touched by the nuns' compassion, yet wouldn't true compassion require simply canceling the whole affair? You can sprinkle a man's path to the injection table with rose petals, but he will hate it just as much as a gauntlet of jeers. The problem with execution is the death that results from it, not the etiquette of those who carry it out.

It can only be concluded that the logic governing the periodic changes since the 18th century, from one method of execution to another, is rooted not in science, nor in moral progress, but in fashion. What dictates hanging this season, and lethal injection the next, is the same illusion of real change that makes the style-conscious now disdainful of bellbottoms, now covetous of them. We do not like to think of our moral standards as comparable to sartorial whims. Morality is supposed to be improving, while anyone with any reflective ability can see that one season's fashion musts are objectively no better nor worse than another's. Yet it is a useful exercise to take stock of what exactly the last few centuries of purportedly humanitarian efforts to improve execution methods have brought us. Capital punishment still hurts, and it still results in death. The periodic shift from one method to another, and the simultaneous denunciation of the old method, only confirms the validity in this domain of that basic law of fashion: the more things change, the more they remain the same.

There are of course many who believe execution should involve suffering. Their position at least has the virtue of consistency and clarity, unlike the pseudo- humanitarian philosophy that dictates current policy. Those who long for vengeance have a true commitment, and are no vapid trend-followers. Their position is the only one to acknowledge the gravity of the act in question. It is the only one that is not motivated by bad faith. As long as we continue debating the relative politeness of lethal injection versus hanging, decapitation, etc., it is their position that triumphs by default."

FROM OFF2DR STAFF: No links of websites similiar in subject to this one is allowed here.

ScoopD (aka: Pam)

That is an excellent article Ron and he is right, the ones seeking vengenance are the ones who remain consistent.  I believe execution is a form of vengeance. Alot of people say no, it is justice or law, state sanctioned murder or whatever but according to my favorite definition of the word, it is punishment and those who seek it are stronger in their stand than anyone else. It is the most basic and right way to be.  :P

venˇgeance       (věn'jəns)  Pronunciation Key 
n.   Infliction of punishment in return for a wrong committed; retribution.
<br /><br />If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. -Thomas Paine<br /><br />My reason for supporting capital punishment: My cousin 16 yr. old Amanda Greenwell was murdered in March of 2004 at the hands of serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.


Ye, Pamee. I agree with that. Execution is most definitely a form of vengeance.

So true, so why do you guys in the U.S. drag it out for so long?

ScoopD (aka: Pam)

Ohh Peter if I could have my way they would go from the courthouse to the death chamber....   
<br /><br />If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. -Thomas Paine<br /><br />My reason for supporting capital punishment: My cousin 16 yr. old Amanda Greenwell was murdered in March of 2004 at the hands of serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.


Ohh Peter if I could have my way they would go from the courthouse to the death chamber....   

FROM OFF2DR STAFF: No links of websites similiar in subject to this one is allowed here.


Pamee, There is a film here about the executioner 'Pierrepoint' called by the same name.

It stars Timothy Spall as the famous English No. 1. I believe the film is being released in the U.S.A. renamed 'A Totally British Hangman' or something like that.

It's worth a view even though it is an anti film. If you can't locate it over there I can sort summin out as means of a copy.

Peter M.


Doc's execution role: 'Be present'----A deposition by Central Prison's warden raises the possibility that a judge was misled about how executions are monitored

Polk testified in death-penalty case.

FLIPPEN'S EXECUTIONHoward wrote in his July 25 order before Samuel Flippen's execution:

* "The BIS monitor and the EKG are placed in an adjacent observation room, where both a licensed physician and a licensed registered nurse monitor the readouts."

* "[Prison officials] further represented to the court that a licensed physician and a licensed nurse would be positioned in an observation room adjacent to the execution chamber in order to monitor the BIS readouts."

* "In addition, [prison officials] now have the BIS monitor, as well as a licensed physician and licensed registered nurse to monitor the BIS readouts."

* "The court is further satisfied that the licensed physician and licensed registered nurse will be sufficiently trained and capable of reading the BIS monitor and responding appropriately in the unlikely event that there is any indication of consciousness."


Judge Howard wrote in his April 17 order before Willie Brown's execution:

* "The state has further provided that a licensed registered nurse and a licensed physician will be positioned in the observation room where they can both observe and read the values of the BIS monitor."

* "The court is satisfied by the state's plan to use a licensed registered nurse and a licensed physician to monitor the level of plaintiff's consciousness."

* "The court is also satisfied that the licensed registered nurse and licensed physician used by [prison officials] in [inmate's] execution will be satisfactorily trained and fully capable of reading the BIS monitor and responding appropriately to the data they receive."

The warden of Central Prison testified in a deposition in November that a physician did not read a brain-wave machine to monitor inmates' consciousness during the state's past 2 executions. The revelation in Marvin Polk's deposition raises questions about whether prison officials misled a federal judge. The judge allowed executions to proceed thinking a doctor would ensure that the inmates were fully sedated before being injected with lethal drugs.

Lawyers for the executed inmates were outraged Thursday that prison officials apparently didn't do what Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard thought they would.

"They pulled a fast one on Judge Howard," said Durham lawyer Thomas Loflin, who represented inmate Samuel R. Flippen, who was executed Aug. 18.

Loflin is considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit and a motion asking the judge to hold prison officials in contempt. Loflin and Raleigh lawyer Donald Beskind, who is litigating another federal lawsuit over the lethal injection procedures, think Howard could order prison officials back into his courtroom for a contempt hearing and demand an explanation.

"When a judge is promised something and it turns out to be untrue, bad things happen," Beskind said.

Howard did not return a message Thursday.

In January, the N.C. Medical Board passed an ethics policy forbidding doctors from doing anything more than being present at an execution, including monitoring an inmate's vital signs. So far, five inmates have had their executions delayed because of lawsuits about the conflict between doctors' ethics and the federal judge's order.

Last year, Howard ruled condemned inmates Flippen and Willie Brown Jr. could be executed because prison officials' plan to have a physician and a nurse track the inmate's consciousness on a bispectral index monitor, or BIS, a brain-wave machine. Howard wanted to make sure the inmates were not conscious and in pain when the paralyzing and heart-stopping drugs were injected. The Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

In an order before Brown's April 21 execution, Howard wrote, "The court is satisfied by the state's plan to use a licensed registered nurse and a licensed physician to monitor the level of the [inmate's] consciousness. ... The court is also satisfied that the licensed registered nurse and licensed physician used by defendants in [the inmate's] execution will be satisfactorily trained and fully capable of reading the BIS monitor and respond appropriately to the data they receive."

3 months after Flippen was executed, Polk, the warden, was deposed in continuing federal litigation about the state's lethal injection procedures and the role of "Team Member 3," the doctor present at the execution.

The lawyer asked Polk, "Can you describe to me what the role is of Team Member 3 under the current execution protocol?"

Polk said, "To be present."

The lawyer asked, "Does this team member have any role in reading the BIS monitor?"

Polk replied, "No."

Prison officials declined to comment about Polk's testimony. "Due to ongoing litigation over the lethal injection process, I am unable to offer any comments on this matter," wrote Keith Acree, a spokesman for the state Department of Correction, in an e-mail message Thursday.

Dr. Obi Umesi was Team Member 3 at the past two executions and said in an interview this week that he did not monitor the machines and did nothing to violate his professional ethics.

In April, Howard initially ruled that Brown could be executed if "personnel with sufficient medical training" were on hand to ensure the inmate was unconscious before getting the lethal drugs. He did not specify that a doctor was required.

Special Deputy Attorney General Thomas Pitman, who represents the prison system, responded to Howard's ruling by stating prison officials had purchased the brain-wave monitor and a doctor and a nurse could observe it. However, Pitman never explicitly stated a doctor would monitor the inmate's consciousness.

"The BIS monitor will be located such that it can be observed and its values read by both medical professionals," Pitman wrote in a court filing.

Howard concluded that the doctor would monitor the inmates' consciousness and allowed both Brown and Flippen to be executed.

Raleigh lawyer Elizabeth Kuniholm, who represents one of the five inmates whose executions have been delayed, said hair-splitting semantics have no place in death penalty law.

"When you are talking about the most extreme penalty that the state can impose on someone," Kuniholm said, "this is not a time to be playing word games."
(source: News & Observer)


N.C. MORATORIUM HAS LASTED MORE THAN A YEAR----Lethal injection dilemma revives execution debate; Death row prisoners on borrowed time as state debates how it kills

James Edward Thomas sat behind the thick glass in the visiting room at Raleigh's Central Prison and slowly listed the men who had been executed in recent years.

He should have been on that list.

A convicted killer, Thomas was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Feb. 2.

But days before his execution date, a Superior Court judge in Wake County gave Edwards a reprieve, saying a group of top statewide elected officials must approve the state's lethal injection process. Five other scheduled executions also have been postponed.

The legal impasse has resulted in a de facto moratorium that has now spanned just over a year. North Carolina's last execution, of Samuel Flippen, occurred in August 2006.

Since then, the court order has set off a chain of events in which doctors, statewide elected officials, legislators, lawyers and advocates have squared off over how executions should be carried out.

Meanwhile, the families of victims await what some now feel is overdue justice. And the men on death row bide their time.

The doctors' role

Lawyers for Thomas and four of his fellow inmates sued in state court over the role of doctors in executions. They argued to Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens that only a doctor can decide whether an inmate has been sedated before the lethal injection is administered. If a doctor isn't involved in the procedure, they argue, an executed prisoner could experience pain from the other drugs. That, they say, would violate the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.It's an argument that's been made with some success in other states.

De facto moratoriums on the death penalty are in effect in California, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, said Richard Dieter, director of the Center for Death Penalty Information, a research group that opposes capital punishment.

"Some states are clearly on hold, and there are others that are in flux," Dieter said. "Over the course of this year, about 12 states had some hold on executions."

What makes North Carolina unique, though, is the active role the N.C. Medical Board has played in the debate, Dieter said. The board, which licenses and disciplines doctors, began questioning what doctors were doing in execution chambers.

"Most states are saying that doctors are needed to confirm that death has occurred, but not to insert the needle and perform other monitoring," Dieter said. "But there needs to be trained medical personnel to do that, and that's where you get into the gray area."

Injections on hold

Like most states, North Carolina uses a combination of three drugs, the 1st to render unconsciousness, the 2nd to paralyze all muscles except the heart and the 3rd to stop the heart.

If the 1st drug somehow fails while the others are administered, death penalty opponents contend, the prisoner could be subject to excruciating pain that might never be detected.

In 2006, U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard questioned the constitutionality of lethal injections in North Carolina during a hearing for Willie Brown, a former death row inmate who had challenged the protocol.

Brown's execution could not proceed unless a doctor monitored his level of consciousness while the lethal drugs were injected, Howard said. Prison officials presented a new protocol that said a doctor would monitor the consciousness of inmates using a machine. They persuaded Howard that a doctor would comply with his orders, and Brown was executed last year, followed by Flippen.

Those executions are now under additional scrutiny, because a prison doctor, who was supposed to monitor a medical device that measures consciousness, said afterward that he did not monitor the machine in Brown's execution.

The Medical Board eventually passed an ethics policy barring doctors from doing anything other than observing an execution.

Now doctors are unwilling to participate for fear of being disciplined by the board. And without a doctor there, executions cannot proceed.

That dilemma remains unresolved, putting all executions on hold while state officials -- including Gov. Mike Easley and a panel of top elected officials -- try to craft a new set of rules for executions.

Throughout all of the legal wrangling, the crux of the matter still hasn't been fully addressed: Is the state's execution protocol constitutional?

"It's going to be a while before this gets worked out," said Mark Kleinschmidt, an attorney for 1 of the 5 inmates.


Former Craven County Sheriff Pete Bland is growing impatient. In 1986, Thomas murdered Bland's niece, Teresa West, a manager at a Raleigh boardinghouse. Tried twice for her murder -- the 1st conviction was overturned on appeal -- Thomas has twice been sentenced to death.

Bland, a death penalty proponent, had planned to witness Thomas' execution.

"I feel like the death penalty is a deterrent," Bland said. "It's been a long, drawn-out thing," Bland said. "I want him to receive all the defense that can be given to him, but once that's done, I feel that the state should be zealous in the punishment."

Stephen Dear, executive director of the anti-death-penalty group People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, said the state should use this as an opportunity to reflect on life.

"North Carolina should be taking advantage of this pause to study how expensive the death penalty is, and if it does anything for victims," Dear said. "Maybe this can allow us to take a really deep look at executions and that would really be good for everyone in North Carolina."

Thomas believes justice is better served by his being alive. The months that he has been given while the legal battle rages, he has continued mentoring younger death row inmates.

"It's through this incident that I was able to realize my responsibility to everyone," Thomas said. "I'm able to do more by doing the best I can each day."

I have no clue when we're going to resume.

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