MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama death row inmate on Friday asked a federal judge to postpone his January execution as he and other inmates challenge the state's lethal injection process as cruel and unusual punishment.
Christopher Brooks is scheduled to be put to death on Jan. 21 for the rape and bludgeoning death of a woman more than 20 years ago. His execution would be Alabama's first in more than two years, and the first using a new three-drug combination that begins with the controversial sedative midazolam.
"Alabama has not yet carried out an execution using midazolam in either a one-drug or a three-drug protocol. The time to evaluate whether such a protocol creates an unreasonable risk of severe pain is not after an execution using a new protocol, but before," Assistant Federal Defender John Palombi said in a statement after filing the stay request.
The lawsuit against the state's execution process is one of several across the country as inmates try to challenge death penalty procedures as unconstitutional as states look to new drug combinations after manufacturers became reluctant to sell execution chemicals.
Lawsuits in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Arizona have challenged lethal injection procedures.
The state attorney general's office will oppose Brooks' request for a stay, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Luther Strange, said. In an earlier court filing, the state accused Brooks, 42, of joining the ongoing litigation, filed by other inmates, as last-minute gamesmanship to avoid the death chamber.
In the request for a stay, Brooks' attorney wrote that midazolam is ineffective as an anesthetic and the inmate would feel the effects of the next two drugs designed to stop his lungs and heart.
A paralytic agent would cause Brooks' to feel as if "he is being buried alive," his attorney wrote. "Then, the third drug, potassium chloride, would cause a massive heart attack after burning him alive from the inside."
A divided U.S. Supreme Court in July ruled against Oklahoma inmates who sought to block the use of midazolam and Alabama has argued the decision should pave the way for the use of midazolam.
However, the Supreme Court ruling did not halt the Alabama litigation as attorneys for inmates argued the ruling did not settle the issue of midazolam and that Alabama's protocol had not been fully litigated.
U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins has scheduled the lawsuit, which now involves six death row inmates, for a final evidentiary hearing in April. Watkins last month allowed Brooks to join the litigation.
Brooks was convicted in 1993 for the rape and death of Deann Campbell.
Florida used midazolam in an execution in October.