Indiana Supreme Court ruling clears the way for state to continue lethal injections

A lethal injection room at an unidentified prison.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The Indiana Supreme Court says the state can use a new three-drug combination for lethal injections in a ruling which clears the way for executions to resume.

Death row inmate Roy Ward, who was convicted in the 2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old Stacy Payne in southern Indiana’s Spencer County, challenged the state’s lethal injection process.

The state appeals court ruled in June that the Department of Correction didn’t follow the Indiana Administrative Rules and Procedures Act in selecting a new three-drug combination in 2014. Ward’s attorney, David Frank, argued such decisions should be subject to public oversight.

That ruling was overturned on Tuesday, when Indiana Supreme Court Justice Christopher Goff wrote in a unanimous 9-page decision that Ward’s “constitutional claims necessarily fail.” The court also said the drug cocktail is not subject to the Administrative Rules and Procedures Act.

The Department of Correction (DOC) chose a cocktail called Brevital that has not been used in any state or federal execution, according to the IndyStar. During oral arguments, IndyStar reports Indiana Attorney General Chief Counsel Stephen Creason told the court that the DOC would not be using Brevital to execute prisoners.

Indiana has 12 death row inmates but no executions are currently scheduled, but this ruling allows the state to start them again.

This ruling means the DOC can alter its lethal injection protocols without changing any rules, as it is an internal policy.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill issued this statement:

“The challenge mounted against the DOC in this case was merely an effort to impede the wheels of justice,” Attorney General Hill said. “Thanks to the Court’s wisdom, however, the path is now clear once again toward a destination that is right and proper for those dangerous lawbreakers who commit society’s most heinous crimes.”