The MacArthur Justice’s civil rights lawsuit seeks an order to stop Mississippi from using a series of three drugs which raise a significant risk of torture in the course of executions. Mississippi’s lethal injection protocol, uses the sedative Midazolam as the only drug to render the condemned prisoner unconscious, before injecting a paralytic drug for cosmetic purposes (to prevent onlookers from watching the prisoner’s body move during the execution), and then potassium chloride to stop the heart.
Midazolam is not an anesthetic; it is a sedative like Xanax. It is not used in surgery as the sole drug to cause unconsciousness. Midazolam is not able to maintain the unconsciousness of a prisoner when the paralytic and potassium chloride are injected. This presents a significant risk that the condemned prisoner will be conscious during the administration of a chemical paralytic (which results in conscious inability to breathe) and the potassium chloride which, before stopping the heart, causes excruciating pain akin to having a blowtorch applied to the skin.
The risk is enhanced by Mississippi’s primitive protocol, which has failed to incorporate the safeguards implemented in other executing states (most notably Oklahoma).
We contend that Mississippi’s refusal to join the majority of executing states in abandoning the three-drug protocol in favor of a single, overwhelming dose of a barbiturate is contrary to the Eighth Amendment.