Fifth Circuit Greenlights Miss. Executions

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The Fifth Circuit this week overturned a federal judge’s sweeping injunction that halted all executions in Mississippi at the request of three death row inmates.
     The New Orleans-based appeals court ruled Wednesday that a federal judge in Mississippi abused his discretion by granting the inmates’ preliminary injunction challenging the state’s revised lethal injection protocol as unconstitutional.
     “Plaintiffs have not shown they are likely to succeed in establishing a violation of either their procedural or substantive due process rights,” Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote for a three-judge panel.
     The decision clears the way for the executions of convicted killers Richard Jordan, Ricky Chase and Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr., who each await death in Mississippi.
     The inmates argued that the state’s modified protocol used to administer lethal injection drugs violated their constitutional rights. In August, they were granted a preliminary injunction blocking Mississippi from using “pentobarbital, specifically in its compounded form, or midazolam” to execute any death row inmate.
     But the Fifth Circuit ruled they were unlikely to prove that the execution method violates their due process rights. It also found that the state’s sovereign immunity prevents a federal court from directing state officials to follow state law.
     “If plaintiffs wish to protest that Mississippi’s revised lethal injection protocol is an unlawful deviation from Mississippi’s laws, Mississippi’s courts are the appropriate venue for their suit,” the Feb. 10 ruling states.
     The appeals court vacated the lower court’s preliminary injunction and remanded the case.
     Jordan, 69, was condemned for the 1976 kidnapping and murder of Edwina Marter. He has been sentenced to death four times and is the state’s oldest and longest-serving death-row inmate, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
     Chase, 47, received his death sentence following his conviction for the 1989 murder of Elmer Hart during the course of a robbery.
     Loden, 51, was sentenced to death in 2001 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Leesa Marie Gray.

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