I prefer to die by firing squad than lethal injection, death row inmate pleads


A convicted murderer has asked to be executed by a firing squad because, he says, lethal injection would be too painful for him.

The prisoner, J.W. Ledford Jr., is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, May 16, in Georgia, United States of America.

Ledford currently takes a pain medication, gabapentin, that changed his brain chemistry so much the lethal injection drug pentobarbital might not make him unconscious and would cause him “to suffer an excruciating death,” according to documents filed by his lawyer in US District Court.

“Mr. Ledford proposes that the firing squad is a readily implemented and more reliable alternative method of execution that would eliminate the risks posed to him by lethal injection,” his lawyers said in court papers filed Thursday.

The Georgia attorney general’s office replied Friday there was no proof a firing squad would be less painful and contended there was “no substantial risk” he would suffer severe pain in a Georgia execution by lethal injection.

The state also questioned the timing of Ledford’s arguments. He is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday.

“Plaintiff has waited until the eve of his execution to suddenly claim that he has been treated for pain with medication that will allegedly interfere with his execution, …” the state’s lawyers wrote. “If plaintiff really thought the firing squad was a reasonable alternative, he could have alerted the State years, instead of 5 days, before his execution.”

Ledford’s lawyers concede they don’t expect their legal strategy to succeed.

Legal precedent only allows him to suggest an alternative form of execution allowed by Georgia, but the state only authorises lethal injection, the lawyers wrote.

Ledford’s “dilemma illustrates why this standard is unworkable,” the lawyers said.

The lawyers ask that the judge grant a declaratory judgment that Georgia’s use of lethal injection violates Ledford’s eighth amendment rights, grant an injunction preventing the state from proceeding with an execution using pentobarbital and prevent the state from discontinuing Ledford’s use of his pain medication.

Ledford has been on death row for 25 years. He was convicted of murder and other crimes in the death of an elderly neighbour, Dr. Harry Buchanan Johnston Jr., in Murray County, Georgia, on January 31, 1992.

He’s suffered nerve pain in his back, hips and legs for at least 10 years, his lawyers say, and has been treated with gabapentin, commonly marketed as Neurontin, which is often used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain.

His lawyers say gabapentin alters a person’s brain chemistry by making brain receptors more receptive to the drug and less receptive to other drugs, including pentobarbital.

In the court documents, the Georgia attorney general’s office calls that statement speculative and says the 5,000mg of pentobarbital used in Georgia executions is more than enough to prevent Ledford from feeling pain.

*CNN Report


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