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Alabama's new, untested execution method has drawn a challenge from a death-row inmate who says the three-drug lethal injection will cause an excruciating death. The state hasn't put anyone to death for more than a year after it ran out of the chemical it used for executions. In September, Alabama unveiled a new protocol that includes a drug that was used in several flawed lethal injections in other states — then asked a court to schedule executions for nine condemned men.
One of those inmates, Christopher Lee Price, filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday saying the new protocol amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Price, who was convicted in the 1991 stabbing death of a minister, contends that the sedative midazolam will not stop him from feeling pain from the other two drugs, a paralytic called rocuronium bromide and the heart-stopping postassium chloride.
"Potassium chloride is a uniquely painful drug," said Price's lawyer, Aaron Katz. He contends that the paralytic masks a prisoner's suffering. Katz is also filing papers to ask a state court to hold off on setting execution dates until Price's federal challenge is resolved. Another death-row inmate, Tommy Arthur, is challenging the new protocol in a different federal court.
Midazolam has been used in the troubled executions of three inmates this year: Joseph Wood, who gasped and took two hours to die in Arizona; Clayton Lockett, who regained consciousness and writhed in pain in Oklahoma; and Dennis McGuire, who also appeared to gasp and took 25 minutes to die.
The Alabama attorney general's office had no immediate comment.