Stay sought in Pa. lethal injection case

Nov. 5, 2012 at 3:47 PM
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HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 5 (UPI) -- A Pennsylvania death row inmate may stave off execution due to procedural challenges to the state's lethal injection protocol, lawyers said.

Hubert Michael is the only Pennsylvania death row inmate whose execution warrant has been signed by Gov. Tom Corbett, but whose execution hasn't been stayed pending another legal matter, The (Harrisburg, Pa.) Patriot-News reported Sunday. Michael is to be put to death Thursday.

Michael, 56, was convicted of luring 16-year-old Trista Eng into his vehicle in Dillsburg, Pa., on July 12, 1993. He drove her to a remote area at a state park and shot her three times, later telling police he was angry with women in general after an unrelated rape accusation was made against him.

The legal challenge, Chester vs. Beard, has to do with the three-drug sequence used in Pennsylvania lethal injection executions. A 2008 Supreme Court case ruled lethal injection didn't violate the U.S. Constitution's "cruel and unusual punishment" threshold but left open the possibility for lawyers on behalf of death row inmates to challenge a state's individual lethal injection protocol.

Lawyers say the first drug, a heavy sedative, if not properly administered, would allow the inmate to feel intense pain from the quickly administered second drug in the sequence, which puts the body into a state of paralysis rendering the prisoner unable to communicate anguish.

The Chester vs. Beard class action suit has been filed on behalf of all Pennsylvania death row inmates and seeks to render the lethal injection protocol unconstitutional.

Lawyers are seeking to have Michael's sentence stayed while the case is argued.

Pennsylvania hasn't carried out an execution since 1999.

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