Society

Inmate Wants Firing Squad Instead Of Lethal Injection

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A convicted murderer on death row in Georgia is asking to be put to death by firing squad because he believes lethal injection will be too painful for him.

In 1992, J.W. Ledford Jr. was convicted of the murder of an elderly neighbor, Dr. Harry Buchanan Johnston Jr., according to CNN. He has been on death row for 25 years, and for the past 10 has suffered from nerve pain in his back, hips and legs, according to his lawyers. To treat his pain, he takes gabapentin, also known on the market as Neurontin.

Ledford's lawyers say that gabepentin alters people's brain chemistry to make their brain receptors more receptive to the drug and less to others, including the lethal injection drug pentobarbital.

If Ledford is given that lethal injection drug, he may not be rendered unconscious and thus would "suffer an excruciating death," court documents filed by his lawyers in U.S. District Court say.

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Ledford believes death by firing squad is the alternative solution.

"Mr. Ledford proposes that the firing squad is a readily implemented and more reliable alternative method of execution that would eliminate the risks posed to him by lethal injection," his lawyers said in court papers.

The reply by the Georgia attorney general's office said that there is no proof a firing squad would be less painful. It contends that there is "no substantial risk" Ledford would suffer severe pain if he underwent lethal injection.

The timing of Ledford's plea was also questioned by the district attorney's office, since he is scheduled to be executed on May 16.

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"Plaintiff has waited until the eve of his execution to suddenly claim that he has been treated for pain with medication that will allegedly interfere with his execution," the state's lawyers wrote. "... If plaintiff really thought the firing squad was a reasonable alternative he could have alerted the State years, instead of 5 days, before his execution."

Ledford's lawyers do not expect their client's request to be granted, although they have asked that the judge grant a declaratory judgment that states Georgia's use of lethal injection violates Ledford's Eighth Amendment rights. They also have asked the judge to prevent Georgia from discontinuing their client's use of pain medication and asked him to issue an injunction that prevents the state from using pentobarbital during the execution.

The attorney general's office said the 5,000 milligrams of pentobarbital used in lethal injections in Georgia will be more than enough to prevent Ledford from feeling pain during his execution.

There are five types of execution methods that are authorized in the U.S.: lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging and firing squad, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Lethal injection is the primary method in all states in which the death penalty is legal.

Sources: CNN, Death Penalty Information Center / Photo credit: ResoluteSupportMedia/Flickr

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