A Kentucky case that begins today challenges lethal injection, the nation’s most used form of execution, USA Today reports. Condemned convicts argue that an anesthetic administered with poison chemicals can leave a person conscious enough to feel excruciating pain. In Frankfort, Ky., attorneys for two convicted murderers will ask judges to strike down or at least suspend such executions as unconstitutional punishment. Ralph Baze, who murdered two police officers with an assault rifle, and Thomas Bowling, who killed two robbery victims, will present autopsy evidence allegedly showing that a recently executed Kentucky prisoner was still aware when deadly chemicals stopped his heart.
“Of all the evidentiary hearings that have been held so far, this is likely to be the fullest and most balanced,” says law Prof. Deborah Denno of Fordham University. Lawyers for Kentucky charge case is an attempt to end all forms of execution. They say stopping lethal injection, the chief means of execution for 37 of 38 states that use the death penalty, would amount to suspending capital punishment because “more humane methods” do not exist. Since 1988, at least 17 states and federal courts have considered the issue. But none has struck down lethal injection.