Georgia delays execution that was to be videotaped
Thursday, July 21, 2011
JACKSON, Ga. (AP) — Georgia abruptly postponed the lethal injection of a death row inmate who would have been the subject of the nation’s first videotaped execution in nearly two decades.
Andrew DeYoung was scheduled to die Wednesday night, but state corrections officials delayed carrying out the sentence until Thursday as they tried to figure out the logistics of recording an event that is usually only witnessed by prison officials, journalists and family members.
The video recording was requested by attorneys for another Georgia death row inmate who wanted evidence to show that Georgia’s reconfigured three-drug lethal injection procedure does not adequately sedate the inmate.
State prosecutors opposed it because they said the inmates have failed to prove that the drug phenobarbital causes undue suffering, and because they worried it could open the door to more executions being recorded.
DeYoung was convicted of stabbing his parents and sister to death in 1993 in a plot to get the family’s money to start a business.
The state’s decision to put off DeYoung’s death came less than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court’s denied a stay of execution. The Georgia Supreme Court earlier voted unanimously to allow the procedure to be recorded, and a video team was on hand to tape the execution.
Attorney General Sam Olens and other officials who were on hand to monitor the execution did not say why it had been pushed back a day. When asked if the delay had to do with the video tape recording, Olens said “it’s broader than that” and said the state had never before dealt with recording an execution.
Experts say it would have been the first recording of an execution since 1992. In that California case, the state’s method of execution using lethal gas was being challenged. The tape was later destroyed.
The request for the videotaping was filed by Brian Kammer, an attorney for death row inmate Gregory Walker. Kammer said he wanted to preserve “the best evidence possible” for his client’s challenge to the state’s method of lethal injection.
State attorneys urged the Georgia Supreme Court to reverse a judge’s ruling allowing the execution to be taped, worrying that it could set a troubling precedent. But justices said they unanimously dismissed the challenge because the state failed to follow proper appeal procedure.
Lawyers believe the only other time an execution was videotaped was in California in 1992, when attorneys were challenging the use of gas as a method of execution, said Kammer. That is also the understanding of Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment.
Dieter said the tape of the California execution was later destroyed and he was aware of no other court-ordered videotaped execution. Dieter said Timothy McVeigh’s 2001 execution at a federal prison in Indiana was broadcast on closed-circuit TV to a gathering of survivors and victims’ family members in Oklahoma City, but there was no indication it was taped.
In seeking a stay, DeYoung’s attorneys argued using pentobarbital would cause DeYoung to suffer based partly on accounts of Roy Blankenship’s June 23 execution. An Associated Press reporter witnessed Blankenship jerking his head several times during the procedure, looking at the injection sites in his arms and muttering after the pentobarbital was injected into his veins.
It was the first time the drug was used in Georgia. States have been turning to pentobarbital to carry out executions since the manufacturer of another sedative announced it would not resume production in the U.S. Pentobarbital has been used this year to put at least 18 inmates to death in eight states.
Death penalty critics have said Blankenship’s unusual movements were proof that Georgia shouldn’t have used pentobarbital to sedate him before injecting pancuronium bromide to paralyze him and then potassium chloride to stop his heart. State prosecutors have raised questions about the timeline cited in the AP’s account and argued Blankenship’s movements occurred before the sedative took hold.
The state attorney general’s office has said adequate safeguards are in place to prevent needless suffering, including a consciousness check before the second and third drugs are administered. The consciousness check was used for the first time in Blankenship’s execution.
In addition, prosecutors argued the courts have held that a certain amount of pain is acceptable during an execution.
DeYoung was convicted of killing his mother, father and 14-year-old sister, Sarah. Prosecutors said DeYoung, then a student at Kennesaw State University, killed his family as part of a plot to gain control of his parents’ money so he could start a business.
Authorities said DeYoung cut the telephone wires of his family’s home in the middle of the night. He then stabbed his mother repeatedly while she was sleeping upstairs, then also stabbed his father and sister, prosecutors said. A brother sleeping downstairs escaped after hearing the commotion and ran to a neighbor’s house for help.
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