An attorney for an Alabama death row inmate facing lethal injection asked the Supreme Court yesterday to give prisoners the right to sue over allegedly unconstitutional prison practices after they have exhausted all other legal means, reports the Washington Post. Attorney Bryan Stevenson said that David Larry Nelson, sentenced to death for a 1978 murder, could not have raised his claim against the state’s procedure for lethal injections earlier because he did not learn about it until six days before his scheduled execution date, Oct. 9, 2003.
A drug user, Nelson has damaged his veins so badly that officials may insert a “central line” in his groin or neck. Or the lethal injection could be delivered into a vein located after a two-inch incision is made into his leg or arm.
The case involves a 1996 federal law that attempts to speed executions by barring prisoners who have been denied habeas corpus by both the state and federal courts from raising new appeals unless they are based on new Supreme Court rulings or new evidence of innocence. A ruling in Nelson’s favor could “unleash in federal court a torrent of new challenges to state execution procedures,” an Alabama state attorney argued.