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Tennessee execution: Billy Ray Irick tortured to death, expert says in new filing

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Editor's note: Reporter Dave Boucher was one of seven state-required media witnesses at Irick's execution. 
Billy Ray Irick felt searing pain akin to torture before he died in a Tennessee prison in August, but steps taken in carrying out his execution blocked signs of suffering, according to a doctor who reviewed information about the lethal injection.
In new court filings entered late Thursday amidst an ongoing legal challenge of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol, Dr. David Lubarsky said statements from people who witnessed the execution indicated the controversial drug midazolam failed to ensure Irick could not feel pain during his death.
As a result, the death row inmate “experienced the feeling of choking, drowning in his own fluids, suffocating, being buried alive, and the burning sensation caused by the injection of the potassium chloride,” Lubarsky wrote in the filing.
The document also says the state did not follow its own lethal injection protocol, raising questio…

Nevada lawmakers introduce bill to end death penalty

Nevada's death chamber
Nevada's death chamber
Assemblyman James Ohrenschall and Sen. Tick Segerblom, both Las Vegas Democrats, on Friday introduced Assembly Bill 237, which would abolish capital punishment in Nevada.

If enacted, the bill will set life without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment for crime. In doing so, any current sentences to death would be commuted to life without parole.

When asked to provide some background for the bill, co-sponsor Segerblom said it was submitted not only from a moral standpoint, but as a matter of practicality.

"It's costing the state millions of dollars to try to kill people, when in fact the system does not allow you to kill people," he said. "The fact is that given the way the process works, the number of appeals, no one is going to be executed in Nevada in our lifetime.

"Meanwhile, to try to execute somebody, the cost for prosecution doubles, you have to hire twice as many lawyers, a psychiatrist, and the legal fees just go from there."

According to 2016 statistics provided by the Death Penalty Information Center, Nevada had 80 inmates on death row in Ely but the last execution was in April of 2006. This high number can be attributed to 2 principle factors. The 1st is a lack of availability of lethal injection drugs. After the 2015 session allocated $860,000 for a new, ADA-compliant execution chamber, the state could not find a pharmaceutical company to supply the necessary drugs out of the 247 that were asked for proposals.

Many pharmaceutical companies have steered away from production of lethal injection drugs because of a series of lawsuits within the last 15 years, questioning not only the legality of the death penalty, but protocols for lethal injection and ethics of supplying the drug.

The 2nd reason is the unlimited appeals allowed upon being sentenced to death. Because Nevada Revised Statute does not enumerate a limit on appeals of an execution sentencing, the 12 individuals executed since 1979 have all been voluntarily executed. All other inmates have spent the remainder of their lives on death row submitting appeals.

With the strong Democratic majority in the Legislature, leadership is confident they will see the bill through to the desk of Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The Republican caucus declined to comment on the bill at this time. The bill was assigned to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary, where it will be heard within the coming weeks.

Source: Elko Free Press, February 27, 2017

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