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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

North Carolina Executions May Lead to Wrongful Death Suits

In 2006, U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard allowed two men to be executed by lethal injection after prison officials indicated that a physician and a nurse at the execution would monitor a type of brain-wave machine to ensure that the inmates were unconscious and not in pain when the paralyzing and heart-stopping drugs were injected. However, a deposition given in November 2006 by Central Prison warden Marvin Polk is now raising questions about whether the judge was misled. In his testimony, Polk disclosed that a physician did not read the brain-wave machine, a bispectral index monitor (BIS), to monitor the inmates' consciousness during the state's past two executions. In light of Polk's testimony, lawyers for the two executed men are considering a wrongful death lawsuit and a motion asking Judge Howard to hold prison officials in contempt. Special Deputy Attorney General Thomas Pitman, who is representing the prison system in this matter, maintains that Judge Howard's ruling never explicitly stated that a doctor would monitor the inmate's consciousness during an execution. [Michele Berry]

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