Two doctors gave a blistering critique in federal court yesterday of the people assigned to carry out Maryland’s lethal injection procedures, describing them as poorly trained and unqualified for their jobs, reports the Baltimore Sun. Testifying in a lawsuit by death row inmate Vernon L. Evans Jr., the physicians criticized execution team members’ understanding of intravenous systems and of signs that an inmate being put to death might be conscious. “The totality of all their knowledge is grossly inadequate,” said Dr. Mark Heath of Columbia University.
Evans is challenging Maryland’s lethal injection procedures on grounds that they violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. His attorneys argue that three decades of intravenous heroin use by Evans have so ravaged his veins that he is at a particular risk of excruciating pain. The trial follows similar cases in other states by condemned prisoners contesting lethal injection procedures. Courts in three of the 37 states that use nearly identical lethal injection procedures have required officials to modify procedures, and executions have been halted in two other states because of pending legal challenges. Evans, 56, was sentenced to death 14 years ago for two 1983 contract killings.