Alabama Death-Row Inmate Challenges Untested Lethal Injection

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

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.


— Tracy Connor