A federal judge on Thursday declined to delay the upcoming executions of 2 Arizona death-row inmates over arguments that a new execution protocol violates their constitutional rights.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled that the Arizona Department of Corrections' new execution protocol, released last month, does not pose a substantial risk of subjecting either inmate to cruel and unusual punishment, as their attorneys argued it would.
Attorneys plan to appeal his ruling Thursday to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Wake's ruling cleared one of several efforts to get the executions of Robert Henry Moormann and Robert Charles Towery stopped or delayed. Both men still have clemency hearings scheduled and other pending legal findings.
Moormann, 63, has been on death row for 27 years for the brutal killing and dismemberment of his 74-year-old adoptive mother Roberta while on a 3-day "compassionate" furlough from the same prison where he's set to be executed on Wednesday. He had been serving a life sentence for kidnapping an 8-year-old girl in 1972.
Towery, 46, is set for to be executed eight days after Moormann on March 8 for killing a man while robbing his home in 1991.
The men's attorneys argued in a court filing seeking delays in their executions that the corrections department's new protocol gives too much discretion to corrections Director Charles Ryan and improperly loosens requirements for those who inject the lethal drugs.
The protocol says that Ryan can decide with which and how many drugs to execute inmates, and 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," rather than "medically trained."
Defense attorneys also say that the new protocol prevents them from meeting with the inmates the day of their execution, a longtime practice.
Spokespeople for Ryan and Gov. Jan. Brewer, who is named in a lawsuit over the new protocol, have said that the new protocol is in accordance with federal and state law.
The lawsuit still is pending, but won't delay Moormann's or Towery's execution unless Wake's ruling is overturned by the 9th Circuit Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.
In his ruling, Wake said that Ryan has told the court that an execution team is in place for Moormann and Towery, that background checks have been performed on them and that they are qualified.
Baich had argued 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 execute 5 inmates 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.
The corrections department has declined to say whether the officer is still on the execution team or has been replaced. The identities of execution team members are protected under Arizona law.
The last inmate to be executed in Arizona was Thomas Paul West, who was put to death July 19 for the beating death of another man in a 1987 robbery.
(source: Associated Press)