Virginia Death Row Inmate Sues Over Execution Drugs

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A man facing the death penalty for killing a Richmond family has sued the Virginia Department of Corrections over the drugs it plans to use in his Jan. 18, 2017, execution.

Ricky Jovan Gray was sent to death row after being convicted of participating in a 2006 murder spree in which the family was killed.

According to court documents, he was specifically sentenced to die for the murders of the two young girls in the family, who were four and nine when they died.

After being sentenced to death, Gray was given the choice of the method of his execution — either by lethal injection or by electrocution. After Gray did not select an option, the method of execution became lethal injection by default.

The Virginia Department of Correction’s lethal injection process employs a “three-drug protocol” for execution of death row inmates.

The first drug in the protocol anesthetizes the inmate, the second drug paralyzes the inmate and the third drug kills the inmate by inducing cardiac arrest.

In the past, drugs used for execution in Virginia included penobarbital, midazolam and midazolam hydrochloride.

In a complaint filed Dec. 14 with a federal judge in Richmond, Gray claims the Department of Corrections intends to employ a new three-drug protocol for his execution that has never before been tested.

He claims to have learned this information through informal communications with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

The new protocol would include compounded midazolam hydrochloride, compounded midazolam, and compounded potassium chloride.

Gray claims his would be the first execution carried out in the U.S. using these drugs, and the first time a combination of more than one compounded drug has been carried out.

He challenges the reliability of the new drugs, claiming there is a risk that he will endure extraordinary pain and suffering during his execution.

Gray also claims the drugs are being created by a compounding pharmacy.

Since compounding pharmacies are not approved by the Federal Drug Administration, Gray says there is a greater risk the drugs could be ineffective or contaminated.

In his complaint Gray voices concern that the first drug administered might fail to render him insensate to the pain produced by the subsequent drugs used in the execution.

In this scenario, he says would be unable to communicate the failure of the initial drug due to the paralytic effects of the other drugs administered to him.

He says he is also concerned the potassium chloride will not work, leaving him alive and in extreme pain.

Gray also claims that a state statute wrongly prevents him from learning exactly which drugs the department of corrections will use during his execution, and he is seeking to confirm whether it is planning to actually use the new drug compounds.

Gray is seeking an order declaring the prohibition of discovery of execution drugs unconstitutional.

He is also seeking injunctive relief, enjoining the defendants from using inadequate anesthesia (in this case compounded midazolam), which violate his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

A representative of the Virginia Department of Corrections could not immediately be reached for comment.

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