Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Monitoring pain at execution almost impossible, doctor says


A doctor who served as the attending physician at several state executions said yesterday that it would have been “practically impossible” to monitor pain and suffering of the condemned inmates from where he stood while observing their deaths.

Dr. Obi Umesi, the doctor at the Wake County Jail who has worked shifts at Raleigh’s Central Prison for about 10 years, said he was not assigned to monitor any medical equipment during the executions. He only signed the forms to certify the inmate’s death after the execution.

Umesi testified before Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison as defense attorneys for several death-row inmates argued against the state’s death-penalty procedure.

Kevin Bradley, an attorney representing inmate Archie Billings, told Morrison that he and others were unfairly denied a chance to speak to the Council of State before the panel approved a new process for executing prisoners in February.

Yesterday’s proceeding is the latest in the series of legal battles about the fate of the state’s death penalty, which is effectively on hold as state officials try to figure out how to execute inmates while appeasing both a federal judge, who has demanded last year that a doctor oversee the process, and the state medical board, which threatened in January to punish doctors who participate in an execution.

Umesi’s testimony matched comments that he made in March to the News & Observer of Raleigh, and defense attorneys said then that the comments suggest that the state didn’t follow the orders of U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard last year when executing Samuel R. Flippen and Willie Brown Jr.

Howard allowed the executions to proceed only after he was satisfied that the N.C. Department of Correction planned to have a doctor and a nurse ensure that the inmates were fully unconscious before being killed.

Following the medical board’s ruling that doctors cannot ethically take part in an execution, state correction officials altered North Carolina’s execution protocol in an attempt to find a compromise.

A Wake County judge, however, citing a law passed in 1919, ruled that the Council of State must approve such a change.

The council, made up of Gov. Mike Easley and nine statewide elected officials, did so. But adoption of the new protocol hasn’t been enough to fully smooth over the legal fallout of the medical board’s ruling.

The N.C. Attorney General’s Office’s sued the board in March, after trying and failing to reach a compromise that would allow executions to continue.

That suit, which is still pending, said that correction officials have been unable to find a doctor willing to take part in an execution since the board issued its threat.
source : www.journalnow.com

No comments: