US officials are trying to stop the videotaping of an execution, thought to be the first such recording in two decades.
Andrew DeYoung is to die on Wednesday evening for the murder of his parents and teenage sister in suburban Atlanta in 1993, barring court intervention over his claim that the state’s new lethal injection drug could cause him needless pain and suffering.
Meanwhile, the state attorney general’s office has appealed against a ruling by a Fulton county judge that DeYoung’s execution should be recorded.
Brian Kammer, a lawyer for a death row inmate, Gregory Walker, said his interest was in “preserving the best evidence possible” for his challenge to the state’s method of lethal injection.
Kammer said the only other time an execution was videotaped was in California in 1992, when lawyers were challenging the use of gas as a method of execution.
In seeking a stay, DeYoung’s attorneys argued that using pentobarbital would cause DeYoung to suffer based partly on accounts of Roy Blankenship’s execution on 23 June. Witnesses said Blankenship jerked his head several times during the procedure, looked at the injection sites in his arms and muttered after the pentobarbital was injected into his veins.
It was the first time the drug had been used in Georgia. Amid a national shortage of sodium thiopental, states have been turning to pentobarbital. The drug has been used to put at least 18 inmates to death in eight states this year.
Critics of the death penalty claim Blankenship’s unusual movements were proof that Georgia should not have used pentobarbital to sedate him before injecting pancuronium bromide to paralyse him and then potassium chloride to stop his heart. However, state prosecutors argue Blankenship’s movements occurred before the sedative took hold.
The state attorney general’s office has said adequate safeguards were in place to prevent needless suffering, including a consciousness check before the second and third drugs are administered. The consciousness check was used for the first time in Blankenship’s execution.
In addition, prosecutors argued the courts have ruled that a certain amount of pain is acceptable during an execution.
Earlier on Wednesday, a federal judge rejected DeYoung’s request for a stay of execution because his case had “absolutely no likelihood of success on the merits”.
The prisoner had failed to show the state’s use of pentobarbital as part of a lethal three-drug combination violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, US District Judge Steve Jones said. DeYoung appealed to the Georgia supreme court and the 11th US circuit court of appeals.