US Supreme Court Case Term Paper

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Taylor v. Crawford

Case Citation: Taylor v. Crawford, 487 F.3d 1072 (2007) (United States Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit)

Appellants: Larry Crawford, Director, Missouri Department of Corrections; James D. Purkett, Superintendent, Eastern Reception Diagnostic & Correctional Center

Appellee: Michael Anthony Taylor

Character of Action: Appellants sought review of the decision of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, which granted judgment in favor of appellee in his action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and determined that Missouri's lethal injection protocol, as outlined in Mo. Rev. Stat. 546.720 was unconstitutional.

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Facts: Appellee pleaded guilty in the Missouri state trial court to the abduction, abuse, and murder of a 15-year-old victim. He was sentenced to death. He appealed his convictions and his sentence through direct appeal and federal habeas corpus proceedings, but both his convictions and his sentence were affirmed. Appellee then filed an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging Missouri's three-chemical procedure for lethal injections. At the time of appellee's suit, Missouri intended to use a procedure that involved the use of three chemicals through an intravenous line (IV) placed in the femoral vein. First, the inmate is injected with a 5-gram does of sodium pentothal, which renders him unconscious. Next, the inmate is injected with a 60-milligram dose of pancuronium bromide to paralyze the inmate's muscles. Finally, the inmate is injected with a 240 milliequivalent injection of potassium chloride to stop the heart. Each injection is followed by a sodium flush.

Appellee alleged that he would suffer from cruel and unusual punishment because Missouri's injection procedure introduced the risk that he would suffer from pain. Appellee maintained that if the thiopental did not sufficiently anesthetize him, he would feel the burning pain of the potassium chloride as it travels through his veins to induce a heart attack, but be rendered unable to indicate that he was experiencing pain because of the pancuronium-bromide- induced paralysis.

TOPIC: Term Paper on US Supreme Court Case Brief Assignment

The facts included testimony of a Dr. Doe I, the physician who introduced the IV lines for the last six inmates who were executed by lethal injection. His testimony indicated that the execution logs were not always accurate, and that he occasionally deviated from the normal amounts of each chemical. However, in the last six executions, death occurred within five minutes of the introduction of the first chemical. Furthermore, there was no evidence that any prisoner suffered pain beyond the insertion of the IV. Dr. Doe I verified that inmates were unconscious by observing their facial expressions through glass.

Appellee's witness, Dr. Heath, questioned the qualifications of Dr. Doe I, a board certified surgeon, to oversee the induction of general anesthesia. Dr. Heath believed that a humane execution under Missouri's three-prong protocol, would require a state of anesthesia deep enough for surgery. He also suggested that dosage level alone is not enough to ensure that a patient is anesthetized, and believed that independent monitoring was necessary. Dr. Henthorn, another of appellee's experts, testified that a deeper level of anesthesia than that required for surgery was necessary for a humane lethal injection, and that the State's procedure would not achieve this level of anesthesia before injecting the lethal drug. Dr. Johnson, another of appellee's experts testified that femoral vein access was unnecessary and produced an unreasonable risk of unnecessary pain.

The State's expert witness, Dr. Dershwitz, testified that the State's procedure would achieve sufficient anesthesia to prevent the inmate from feeling any pain. Furthermore, Director Crawford testified that he wanted to improve the lethal injection protocol and that appellee's execution would not have been carried out until he approved that procedure.

The district court agreed with appellee. It concluded that the State's existing procedure presented an… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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