HELENA District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled Tuesday that Montana’s use of the drug pentobarbital in executions doesn’t comply with laws that govern lethal injection in Montana, a move that the American Civil Liberties Union claimed stayed all Montana executions indefinitely.
The decision comes from ACLU’s legal challenge in early September.
According to the ACLU, at issue was what the state Legislature meant when it specified use of an “ultra-fast-acting barbiturate” and whether pentobarbital meets that definition.
The court determined that pentobarbital did not and prohibited the state from using it in its lethal injection protocol, the ACLU stated.
The governor’s office declined comment. Anastasia Burton, deputy communications director for Attorney General Tim Fox, said their department was still studying the decision and would have no comment at this time.
The state has 60 days to appeal.
According to the ACLU, attorney Ron Waterman filed the lawsuit on behalf of death row inmate Ronald Allen Smith in 2008.
The lawsuit now also includes Montana’s only other prisoner on death row, William Gollehon.
ACLU legal director Jim Taylor said the state has had chances to correct the problems with the death penalty protocol. “And each time they came up with a new flawed procedure,” he said “Seven years of litigation has demonstrated that Montana's death penalty is broken beyond repair.”
Caitlin Borgmann, the ACLU’s executive director, stated in the news release: “While the ACLU will continue to fight for the abolition of the death penalty in Montana, we are gratified that, in the short term, our state will be staying out of the business of killing people.”
The ACLU said Montana is the only state that stipulates a two-drug lethal injection protocol and requires one of the drugs to be an “ultra fast-acting barbiturate.”
Borgmann said as of now, the death penalty is not an option in Montana and it would continue to be that way until the statute is amended.
"We won on this specific narrow issue …," she said. "But we will continue to fight for a more affirmative abolition of the death penalty in Montana."
Source: Great Falls Tribune, October 6, 2015
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