PHOENIX — Three inmates on Arizona's death row have sued the governor, the state corrections director and those who conduct executions, arguing that a new execution protocol violates their constitutional rights.
In a filing obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, the inmates' attorneys argue that the new protocol — made public last month — gives too much discretion to Arizona Department of Corrections director Charles Ryan.
The protocol says that Ryan can decide with which and how many drugs to execute inmates and loosened requirements for those who inject the lethal drugs.
Before, everyone on Arizona's execution team needed to have at least one year of current experience with starting intravenous lines. Now, the protocol says that those on the execution team need only have past experience starting IV lines and that Ryan can decide whether someone on the medical team is "appropriately trained."
Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux and governor spokesman Matt Benson could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
"The Department of Corrections undid the constitutional protections that were built into the previous protocol and now gives total discretion to the director," said Dale Baich, the attorney who represents one of the inmates.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Arizona on Monday, seeks to have two upcoming executions delayed as the litigation plays out.
Baich is defending Robert Charles Towery, who was convicted of killing a man while robbing his home in 1991, and is set for execution March 8.
Another inmate, Robert Henry Moormann, is set to be executed eight days before that, on Feb. 29, for killing and dismembering his adoptive mother in Florence while on a "compassionate" furlough from prison.
The Department of Corrections unexpectedly changed its execution protocol last month following another lawsuit over the qualifications of the execution team and other aspects of the way Arizona conducts its executions.
Among the suit's claims was that the state deviated from the previous court-approved execution protocol by using improperly vetted personnel to administer lethal injections under a sheet, away from witnesses' view.
Judge Neil Wake dismissed his lawsuit on Dec. 21, saying the state did not violate inmates' constitutional rights by deviating from written execution protocol. Baich is appealing the decision.