3 inmates on Arizona's death row have sued the governor, the state corrections director and those who conduct executions, arguing that a new execution protocol violates their constitutional rights.
In a filing obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, the inmates' attorneys argue that the new protocol - made public last month - gives too much discretion to Arizona Department of Corrections director Charles Ryan.
The protocol says that Ryan can decide with which and how many drugs to execute inmates. He has also loosened requirements for those who inject the lethal drugs.
Before, everyone on Arizona's execution team needed to have at least 1 year of current experience with starting intravenous lines. Now, the protocol says that those on the execution team need only have past experience starting IV lines and that Ryan can decide whether someone on the medical team is "appropriately trained."
"The Department of Corrections undid the constitutional protections that were built into the previous protocol and now gives total discretion to the director," said Dale Baich, the attorney who represents one of the inmates in the lawsuit.
Matt Benson, a spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer, said the governor "is confident that the procedures followed by the Arizona Department of Corrections are in accordance with state and federal law."
Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux didn't respond to requests for comment Monday. He said last week that the department hasn't lowered standards in its new execution protocol and changed it merely to simplify it.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Arizona on Monday, seeks to have 2 upcoming executions delayed as the litigation plays out. The lawsuit argues that giving Ryan discretion to execute 1 inmate one way and another inmate in a different way violates prisoners' rights.
"Clear standards must exist, and deviations from those standards result in equal protection violations," the lawsuit says.
Baich also argues that the last time Ryan chose an execution team, one of its members had an arrest record that didn't come to light until after he had helped conduct the state's past 5 executions by inserting IV lines.
Court records show the team member, a Yuma-based corrections officer, had been arrested for drunken driving and public intoxication, didn't have a medical license, and last inserted IV lines on a regular basis in the mid-1990s when he was in the military.
It's unclear whether the officer is still on the execution team.
The inmates suing include Robert Henry Moormann, who is set to be executed on Feb. 29 for killing and dismembering his adoptive mother in Florence while on a "compassionate" furlough from prison. Robert Charles Towery, who was convicted of killing a man while robbing his home in 1991, is set for execution March 8 and is named in the suit.
The 3rd inmate suing is Pete Rogovich, who was sentenced to death for a 1992 crime spree in which he fatally shot 4 people and robbed 2 businesses. His execution hasn't been scheduled.
(source: Arizona Daily Star)