US judge in Nevada hears testimony about execution of firing squad
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LAS VEGAS (AP) – A doctor testifying as an expert in the attempt of a convicted Nevada inmate not to be put to death told a federal judge on Thursday that the execution by a firing squad would be swift and “relatively painless”.
However, Nevada law does not allow inmates to be shot and the method is not being considered in the efforts of the Las Vegas attorney general and state attorneys for their first execution in more than 15 years.
Zane Michael Floyd’s attorneys are required to suggest an alternate method of execution as they ask U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II to declare Nevada’s lethal injection plan unconstitutional. They argue that the procedure devised by state prison officials and its never-before-used combination of drugs would produce an excruciating death.
The execution by firing squad “would be very quick,” Dr James Williams told the judge on Thursday. Williams is an emergency physician at a hospital in Victoria, Texas, who has previously testified as a trial expert in federal court.
“I don’t believe the convicts would feel anything that came close to pain,” he said.
South Carolina this year became the fourth state in the United States to allow execution by firing squad, joining Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah. The last inmate on death row in the country was Ronnie Gardner in Utah in June 2010.
Floyd, 46, doesn’t want to die. He was convicted in 2000 and convicted of killing four people and injuring a fifth in a 1999 shotgun attack at a Las Vegas grocery store. He was also found guilty of raping a woman before the shooting.
His lethal injection was scheduled for last July, but has been delayed pending the outcome of his challenges in state and federal courts.
Deputy Chief Attorney General Randall Gilmer said on Wednesday the state wanted to have Floyd executed by February, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Floyd also has appeals pending in the Nevada Supreme Court and the 9th Court of Appeals for the U.S. District of San Francisco.
His attorneys, Deputy Federal Public Defenders David Anthony and Brad Levenson, tried this week to show that the procedure worked out by Nevada prison officials and that the combination of three or four drugs they want to use would be inhumane.
Dr Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist who teaches at Columbia University in New York, provided a written report to the court predicting “an extremely agonizing death” with drugs used to lull and paralyze Floyd before “the excruciating pain from the intravenous concentrated potassium ”Administered to stop his heart.
State expert testimony is scheduled for December, and Boulware has said he is particularly keen to hear from Nevada Prison Chief Charles Daniels, the senior executioner.
Nevada is said to use the anesthetic ketamine, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, the heart-stopping potassium chloride salt, and possibly a muscle paralytic called cisatracurium. The drug alfentanil could replace fentanyl and potassium acetate could replace potassium chloride, depending on the execution plan.
No state has used ketamine or fentanyl substitute during an execution, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Potassium acetate, a salt also used as an airplane defroster, was mistakenly used by Oklahoma in a fatal injection in 2015.
Dr Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist who teaches in the medical and law schools at Emory University in Atlanta, testified Wednesday as an expert on Floyd’s defense. He said some of the drugs and doses could cause Floyd’s lungs to fill with fluid, resulting in excruciating “drowning-like” suffocation death.
Zivot said autopsies that followed other executions found prisoners’ lungs filled with fluid.
The last person to be killed in Nevada was Daryl Mack in 2006 for a rape and murder in 1988 in Reno. He asked for the execution of his sentence.
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