Roy Blankenship

posted Jun 21, 2011, 3:26 PM by Kathryn Hamoudah   [ updated Aug 31, 2012, 8:29 AM by GFADP staff ]
Today, lawyers for Roy Blankenship told the court they had serious concerns about whether the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Lethal Injection Procedures amount to cruel and unusual punishment and asked the court to stay his execution and hear additional evidence about the legality of the protocol.

 Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob temporarily halted the execution of Roy Blankenship, who is scheduled to be executed on Thursday at 7pm, so she can consider all information provided in today’s hearing. However, this does not necessarily mean that Thursday’s execution is cancelled, so please stay tuned for more information.

 The judge did not set a time frame for a decision, so at this time we are not cancelling the vigils scheduled for Thursday. Until we here otherwise, please plan to attend a vigil at a site near you. Please click here for more information.

 Also, please continue to send letters to Dr. Carlo Musso urging him not to participate in this execution.

Below is an article on today’s hearing.

Fulton judge halts execution over new drug

By Associated Press

For the AJC

4:32 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Fulton County judge has temporarily halted the execution of an inmate while she considers his challenge to Georgia's recent switch to a new legal injection drug.

Roy Willard Blankenship was to be executed Thursday for the 1978 murder of an elderly Savannah woman. It would be the first in Georgia using pentobarbital as part of its three-drug combination.

Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob said Tuesday she wanted time to review the case, and that her ruling could come within days.

Defense attorneys say the use of pentobarbital is untested, unreliable and unsafe. State attorneys say there's no evidence backing the claims.

Georgia made the switch after regulators seized the state's supply of sodium thiopental over questions about how it was obtained.

Defense attorney Brian Kammer on Tuesday asked Shoob to block Georgia from using pentobarbital as part of its new three-drug execution combination on Blankenship.

"Pentobarbital is a totally untested drug with respect to use on human patients," Kammer said, adding: "It's nothing more than experimenting on a human being."

State attorneys contended that the claims were unfounded, and noted that the sedative has been used in more than a dozen other executions in the last few years. Joseph Drolet, an assistant attorney general, said the evidence shows the drug "works too well," in part because it often puts patients in deep sleep.

The legal showdown unfolded weeks after Georgia announced it had obtained pentobarbital and scheduled its first execution using the sedative as the first part of a three-drug combination.

Many of the nation's 34 death penalty states have scrambled to find a new supplier of sodium thiopental after Hospira Inc., its sole manufacturer in the U.S., said in January it would no longer make the drug. Several states postponed executions amid the shortage, and most have switched or are considering switching to pentobarbital, a substitute.

But Georgia has been under particular scrutiny after Drug Enforcement Administration regulators took the state's stockpile of sodium thiopental amid questions about how it had obtained the supply. And a complaint filed Monday by the Southern Center for Human Rights raised more questions about the state's execution policies.

The center asked the state medical board to revoke the license of Dr. Carlo Musso, whose company was hired by state prison officials to participate in executions. It claimed Musso ran afoul of the law by importing the drug from overseas manufacturers without first registering with state regulators and later sold the drugs to officials in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Shoob has not issued a decision, but she expressed unease about a statement from Lundbeck, pentobarbital's Danish manufacturer, which said using the drug to carry out the death penalty "falls outside its approved indications."

Shoob also questioned whether Georgia prison officials were allowed to cut corners and raised concerns about Musso's role in the executions.

Drolet, who called the Musso filing a red herring, said the physician was charged with checking vital signs and hiring nurses who run the IV lines into the condemned inmates. But he said he doesn't administer or mix the deadly drugs and has no direct involvement in the process.

Musso has declined to comment on the filings.

Blankenship, who was convicted of killing 78-year-old Sarah Mims Bowen in her Savannah apartment, has few remaining legal options if the judge sides with state attorneys. Georgia's pardons board had earlier delayed the execution to give authorities more time to conduct DNA testing, but rejected his appeal for clemency last week after the tests returned inconclusive.