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Mississippi Supreme Court Upholds the Right of Condemned Men and Women to Challenge Torturous Methods of Execution in State Court

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for a Death Row prisoner to seek a state court order prohibiting a torturous method of execution.

In Crawford v. Fisher, the Mississippi Supreme Court rejected the Mississippi attorney general’s attempt to block Charles Ray Crawford from filing a civil rights lawsuit in the state court system. Crawford’s lawsuit challenges the use of a compounded anesthetic that has not been tested or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The use of an ineffective anesthetic as the first drug in a three-drug execution series would result in Crawford being conscious throughout the execution and experiencing an extremely painful death by suffocation and cardiac arrest.

Attorneys from the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center’s New Orleans office originally filed Crawford’s lawsuit in Hinds County Chancery Court in Jackson. Attorney General Hood, representing Commissioner of Corrections Marshall Fisher, objected that the case was improperly filed. In the chancery court hearing, the state’s attorneys suggested that it should have been filed in the state circuit court or in federal district court. But after the chancery judge transferred Crawford’s case to the circuit court, the state objected again, arguing that the case could not be filed in circuit court either. The circuit judge agreed with the attorney general and dismissed the case.

In today’s ruling, more than two years after the initial filing, the Mississippi Supreme Court rejected the attorney general’s arguments and sent the case back to circuit court for further proceedings.

“The Mississippi Supreme Court’s opinion affirms that the courts of Mississippi will follow federal constitutional and statutory law giving death-sentenced prisoners the right to challenge the use of drugs and injection procedures in state trial courts,” said MacArthur Justice Center Jim Craig, who represents Crawford along with MacArthur Justice Center attorney Emily Washington.

“Condemned men and women have the right to prevent the use of execution protocols that result in excruciating torture, including conscious suffocation, in their executions,” Craig said. “If the attorney general had answered our lawsuit in the spring of 2014, instead of playing this jurisdictional shell game, the lawsuit would be final by now. We look forward to the opportunity to prove Mr. Crawford’s claims in the state court.”

A copy of the decision is available HERE »

Keywords: Death Row, lethal injection, Mississippi

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