The Georgia Supreme Court stayed the execution of convicted murderer Warren Hill until it can be decided if procedural changes in the execution process must be reviewed before implementation.
Normally three drugs would be used in the lethal injection process in Georgia, but the supply of the second drug to be injected, pancuronium bromide, expired two weeks before the scheduled execution according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution story.
The Department of Corrections tried to keep the execution on track by changing its procedures from using three drugs to only one, a barbiturate. That decision, however, became the basis for a stay issued by the Georgia Supreme Court less than two hours before Hill was to die for a 1990 murder.
Hill’s execution is now on hold at least until November when the justices have said they will hear lawyers’ arguments as to whether the state’s Administrative Procedures Act requires 30 days of public comment before Corrections can make the change.
The 52-year old Hill was sentenced to death for killing fellow Lee Correctional Institution inmate John Handspike. Hill, who has an IQ of 70, beat his cellmate to death with a nail-studded board. Hill’s low IQ had been the source of past complaints about his scheduled execution.
The day before the scheduled execution, the Georgia Department of Corrections decided to continue with the execution using a single drug, pentobarbital. Seven other states use a single drug for lethal injection.
Pancuronium bromide is a muscle relaxant and is recommended for use in euthanasia in some countries. Ironically, Amnesty International objects to the use of pancuronium bromide because it provides no analgesic or hypnotic properties and may disguise the pain of the condemned if the painkilling drug is ineffective.
The execution of convicted murderers continues to be a messy process for many reasons. It may be time to consider the guillotine: also messy, but relatively painless.