Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lawyers seek to halt executions

By Estes Thompson, Associated Press

Ask Easley to spare inmate while death method is studied.

Raleigh Lawyers for a death row inmate scheduled to be executed next month asked Gov. Mike Easley on Wednesday to stop executions in the state so that the method for putting prisoners to death can be studied.

Easley should follow the lead of Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who stopped executions there after a botched execution lasted 34 minutes - at least twice as long as usual - before the prisoner died, defense attorney Geoffrey Hosford said.

A federal judge in California imposed a moratorium in that state after Florida halted its executions. And the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that state executions cannot proceed until a legislative panel reviews execution protocol."North Carolina follows the same formula as Florida and California," said Hosford, who represents condemned prisoner Marcus Reymond Robinson.Easley's office declined to comment about the request. Easley, a former prosecutor and state Attorney General, has been a steadfast supporter of the death penalty but has commuted two sentences since taking office in 2001. Twenty-seven inmates have been executed in that time.A retired executive director of the state Board of Pharmacy who attended a news conference with Hosford said he received a lesser dose of potassium chloride - the same chemical used to put prisoners to death - after heart surgery."It was so painful that I screamed until the nurse pulled the thing out," David Work said. "I liken it to putting an electric wire in your artery. "Work, a death penalty opponent, suggested that the state instead use morphine drips that would make the prisoners unconscious before stopping their breathing.

Hosford also complained that North Carolina keeps the qualifications and identities of executioners secret and "whether or not the person has any medical training is a question.

"Defense lawyers are scheduled to meet with Easley on Jan. 17 to request clemency. Hosford said he intends to discuss the pain issue with Easley and to introduce it in court filings.Robinson, 33, was sentenced to death in 1994 in Cumberland County for the June 1991 death of 17-year-old Erik Tornblom. Tornblom gave Robinson and Roderick Sylvester Williams Jr. a ride from a Fayetteville convenience store, but he was forced to drive to a field where he was shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun. Williams, 32, was sentenced to life in prison in 1995.

Robinson's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was dismissed Oct. 30, and that triggered the scheduling of his execution.Department of Correction spokesman Keith Acree said Wednesday the execution was still scheduled and that he was "not aware of any efforts or plans by the state to change that."In Florida, the IV needle used to deliver the lethal combination of drugs missed a vein and was inserted into muscle tissue.

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