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Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

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Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Tennessee: Alternative methods key point in lethal injection trial

The state of Tennessee wants a group of death row inmates challenging the lethal injection execution procedure to suggest a better way to die.

If they can't, attorneys for the state say Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman has to uphold the state's lethal injection procedure as it is written.

Assistant Attorney General Scott Sutherland outlined in opening statements Tuesday evidence that will be presented during a trial this week and next. He is defending Tennessee Department of Corrections protocol that says inmates shall be executed with an injection of compounded pentobarbital.

More than 30 inmates on death row say that procedure violates Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Their attorneys say the compounded drug is not reliable and risks prolonged death of several hours.

The case is expected to rely heavily on expert testimony.

Sutherland said based on several U.S. Supreme Court rulings, including one last week known as Glossip, the inmates must prove the state's procedure creates risk of lingering death or suffering and that there is a better alternative.

He noted that courts in other states have upheld the use of pentobarbital as a constitutional method of capital punishment. The most recent of those was the Glossip case, when the nation's highest court ruled Oklahoma's procedure - which uses a different drug - was constitutional.

Stephen Kissinger, an attorney with Federal Defender Services of Eastern Tennessee who is representing the inmates, said in an opening statement that Tennessee's procedure creates too much risk of harm and pain to inmates.

He said state protocol calls for prison guards, not trained medical staff, to administer deadly doses. He said that increases the potential for mistakes that will cause inmates pain.

Kissinger said the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in past cases that the attorneys do not have to provide an alternative method of execution.

The outcome of the trial could lead to execution dates being set, or the judge could direct the state to redo its protocol. Bonnyman's decision will likely be appealed, which means the death penalty will be tied up in court for a while.

Source: The Tennessean, July 7, 2015

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