The News & Observer
The state of North Carolina has taken sufficient precautions to ensure that an inmate scheduled to die this week will remain asleep during his execution, a federal judge said yesterday in ruling that the execution could proceed.
Attorneys for condemned inmate Willie Brown Jr., 61, had objected to the state's procedure, saying there was a chance that Brown could awaken but be paralyzed and suffer pain. The state said that there would be a physician and a registered nurse present and that they would watch over a brain-wave monitor that would help determine whether Brown remained asleep.
Brown is scheduled for execution at 2 a.m. Friday at Central Prison in Raleigh. Brown was sentenced to death for the killing in 1983 of a woman during a convenience-store robbery in Martin County.
"It is now clear that plaintiff will not be satisfied with anything less than an experienced, licensed, board-certified anesthesiologist standing at his bedside in plain view of attending witnesses," U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard said in a seven-page order denying a stay of execution.
"Plaintiff attempts to force a conflict of medical ethics by taking the issue of the positioning of medical professionals in and around the execution chamber and dressing it in constitutional clothes."
Howard said in an earlier order that he would stop the execution if the state didn't prove to him that officials would prevent Brown from waking up after drugs were injected.
Defense attorneys contend that the state's plan to require that a doctor and a nurse observe the bispectral index monitor from an adjacent room wasn't sufficient. The defense also questions the medical team's credentials and said that an anesthesiologist should be present.
"Wherever the medical professionals are located, they will be able to verify that plaintiff is unconscious after administration of sodium pentothal or, if he remains conscious at that time, they will be able to bring about the injection of additional sodium pentothal until plaintiff is rendered fully unconscious," Howard said.
The judge also rejected a defense request for specific information about the medical team, saying that there was a "strong need to maintain the confidentiality of the identities of medical personnel who participate in executions to prevent them from being subjected to scorn or intimidation."
The state's use of the brain monitor raised complaints from the manufacturer and anesthesiologists, who said that the machine wasn't intended for executions.