Inmate's reaction adds to drug's controversy

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ATLANTA --- A day after a prisoner appeared to struggle as a lethal injection drug that had never before been used in Georgia pumped through his veins, medical experts were split about whether the execution went awry and defense attorneys called for an immediate investigation.

Roy Willard Blankenship:Georgia inmate was the first in the state to be put to death using a new additive to the three-drug cocktail.   Special
Special
Roy Willard Blankenship:Georgia inmate was the first in the state to be put to death using a new additive to the three-drug cocktail.

Roy Willard Blankenship jerked his head several times throughout Thursday's procedure, which used pentobarbital as part of the three-drug combination for the first time in Georgia. One expert said Blankenship's movements were a signal the execution was botched, while another suggested it could have been a side effect of the drug.

Defense attorney Brian Kammer claimed before the execution that using the drug would risk needless suffering. In separate filings Friday, he asked state prison officials to launch an independent investigation and urged the Georgia Supreme Court to halt all executions in the state pending the outcome.

"This problem is obviously capable of repetition while evading review, and it is unconscionable to allow further lethal injections to proceed" until prison officials determine what happened, he said in his petition to the court.

The state, he said, has proven that it "cannot assure a humane, constitutional execution process."

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kristen Stancil declined to comment on whether it would launch an investigation, saying only that officials will work with the Attorney General's office and medical experts to ensure "execution procedures are medically appropriate."

She said Georgia used the same protocol adopted by other states that have switched to pentobarbital.

"We remain confident in our ability to carry out humane and dignified executions," she said.

Blankenship's execution has set off a debate in the legal community and aroused the scrutiny of medical experts.

"They clearly botched this execution and Mr. Blankenship clearly suffered," said Dr. David Waisel, a Harvard medical professor who has raised questions about using pentobarbital.

"Whether it was due to incompetent performance or whether it was due to the fact that the drug didn't work as the state claimed it would, something went wrong."

Blankenship's movements could also have come during an "excitement phase" that takes hold before a patient slips into unconsciousness after receiving a powerful sedative, said Dr. Howard Nearman, the chairman of the anesthesiology department at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.

"As he's going to sleep, there could be many kinds of reactions. He could have had the same reaction with sodium thiopental," Nearman said. "And he could have been faking it. Anything's possible."

Georgia has joined a growing number of death penalty states that use pentobarbital in executions amid a supply shortage of sodium thiopental. That drug was long used in Georgia and other states as the first part of a three-drug execution combination.

The state was forced to switch to pentobarbital this month after the state surrendered its supply of sodium thiopental to Drug Enforcement Administration officials amid an investigation into how prison officials obtained the drug. The probe is still pending.

But critics have long claimed that using pentobarbital could risk violating the ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and Thursday's execution isn't likely to lessen that criticism.

Blankenship was put to death for the 1978 murder of Sarah Mims Bowen, who died of heart failure after she was sexually assaulted in her Savannah apartment.

BEFORE THE EXECUTION , Blankenship was laughing and chatting with a prison chaplain, and at one point he tried to converse with the observers sitting behind a glass window, seemingly unaware that they couldn't hear him.

That changed as the injection began. First, he jerked his head toward his left arm and made a startled face while blinking rapidly. His mouth tightened, and he lurched to his right arm, and then lunged twice with his mouth wide open.

He then pushed his head forward and his chin smacked as he mouthed words that were inaudible to observers. His eyes never closed.

Blankenship's movements stopped within three minutes after the lethal injection started, and his breathing slowed. He was unconscious about six minutes after it started, and pronounced dead about nine minutes later.

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Just My Opinion
6304
Points
Just My Opinion 06/25/11 - 05:03 am
0
0
Oh, who cares? These people

Oh, who cares? These people are being put to death, so who cares if it makes their stupid head twitch? "....clearly suffered"?...this dude killed somebody, and I'm quite certain THEY suffered. Okay, they want more testing done on this new drug? Sure. Bring on the next Death Row inmate, pull up his shirtsleeve, and let's get it on!

Me
0
Points
Me 06/25/11 - 08:00 am
0
0
I agree totally with Just My

I agree totally with Just My Opinion!
The sicko was condemned to death 3 separate times for murdering a 78-year-old woman who was brutally raped..who is really stupid enough to care if he suffered?

Riverman1
94294
Points
Riverman1 06/25/11 - 08:10 am
0
0
If we keep up this fretting

If we keep up this fretting over movements as the murderer dies, let's simplify it all and hit them in the head with a hammer like we do livestock.

seenitB4
98620
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seenitB4 06/25/11 - 08:24 am
0
0
Who cares.....I've always

Who cares.....I've always thought they should be put to death the same way the victim died.

Jane18
12332
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Jane18 06/25/11 - 08:26 am
0
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Ditto JOP and Me! Inhumane?

Ditto JOP and Me! Inhumane? Look at what he did to that lady............

Dixieman
17597
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Dixieman 06/25/11 - 09:10 am
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The story does not even

The story does not even mention his victim until paragraph 17, and then just briefly. Quick Internet search shows he confessed to brutalizing her for 45 minutes to an hour, raping and murdering her. I don't think she was "laughing and chatting" just before she died.
Which way would you rather die?

Andyinc30906
0
Points
Andyinc30906 06/25/11 - 09:24 am
0
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Two thumbs up Opinion. They

Two thumbs up Opinion. They should be put to death in the same manner they killed their victim. Like you said, their victim did not have a choice of just going to sleep.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 06/25/11 - 09:33 am
0
0
Just strap his head down and

Just strap his head down and put a bag over his head so you can't see his or her eyes and mouth or better yet do not let the press in then you will not have liberal comments like above. Who really care, the stuff worked and he is dead.

da-realist
8
Points
da-realist 06/25/11 - 01:02 pm
0
0
Agreed....who give a damn if

Agreed....who give a damn if he twitched. I think they should be killed in the same way their victim was. If we were not so worried about inmate rights there's alternative methods.,,, hanging, firing squad, hell the electric chair alot of these crimes would stop. Imagine if found guilty, and im talking about without a doubt, you face execution by firing squad for certain crimes,..i bet you that lady and alot of other citizens would still be alive. Forget twenty years on death row and then worrying about if he jerked.......HE'S DEAD!!!!MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 06/25/11 - 05:14 pm
0
0
I seriously doubt his lawyer

I seriously doubt his lawyer cares about how he died either. He is most likely a court appointed attorney who will receive more money from the State of Georgia.

Dixieman
17597
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Dixieman 06/25/11 - 05:41 pm
0
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Willow Bailey -- No, death

Willow Bailey -- No, death penalty lawyers are not motivated by money but by power and ego and a desire to control the lives of others and our entire society.

dangerousdave
0
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dangerousdave 06/27/11 - 10:43 am
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Its about time they killed

Its about time they killed this no good man.I live in Savannah and remember when this all happened.He raped and killed a 78yr. old lady and should have been shot between the eyes.All they are trying to do is give Troy Davis more time to live,I say kill him now!!

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