Lawyers File Unusual Challenge to Va. Executions

Wednesday, 25 Apr 2012 10:00 AM

By Greg McDonald

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Two lawyers have filed a different type of court challenge to Virginia executions, arguing that state prison officials are engaging in the unlicensed practice of medicine, pharmacy, and anesthesiology.
 
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the lawsuit was filed in Circuit Court on Tuesday and may mark the first time that such an approach has been taken to trying to stop state executions of death row inmates.

“I’m not aware of anyone approaching it like this,” Stephen A. Northup, director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told the Times-Dispatch. “I think it’s a very creative approach.”

The complaint names the head of the Virginia Department of Corrections, other prison officials, and unnamed members of the state “execution team” as defendants.

It also states, according to the Times-Dispatch, that none of the defendants “are authorized under state law to request, dispense, distribute, give, and/or obtain, or intravenously administer as a general anesthetic controlled prescription substances to condemned inmates.

The complaint was filed by Meghan Shapiro, a lawyer from Alexandria, Va., and one of her colleagues. She told the Times-Dispatch that they do not represent any death row inmates but are legally entitled to challenge anyone who engages in the illegal practice of a profession.

“There is a very good reason that these medical professions and dangerous drugs are so highly regulated,” Shapiro said, adding that the state’s execution team members “have no idea what they are doing.”

Currently, 11 inmates are on death row in Virginia, but no executions are pending, according to prison officials, who declined to comment on the complaint.

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