All executions in Montana were put on hold Tuesday by a judge who said the drugs the state planned to use didn't comply with its death-penalty law.
The issue was whether pentobarbital was the "ultra-fast-acting barbituate" called for in the statute. A lawyer for the state testified that it was, but the judge noted that contradicted what he had said in an earlier case.
District Court Jeffrey Sherlock, barred the state from using pentobarbital to execute any prisoners. That means Montana prison officials either have to find a faster-acting drug — which is likely not available — or lawmakers have to change the statute.
The judge noted that his ruling did not affect the constitutionality of the death penalty in Montana, which has executed three prisoners since capital punishment was reinstated 1976. The state has only two men on death row.