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State needs alternative to lethal injection for executions, prisons boss says

Apr 28, 2014 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

Many states have had problems getting execution drugs.

The head of the Wyoming Department of Corrections wants state lawmakers to consider alternative ways to execute condemned inmates as prisons across the nation face a shortage of drugs used in the past.

Bob Lampert, director of the agency, told lawmakers earlier this year that Wyoming might not be able to get the drugs necessary to kill the only inmate currently on death row after his legal appeals are exhausted.

Lampert has urged the Wyoming Legislature to begin rewriting state laws before a new session convenes next year.

Many states have had problems getting execution drugs, prompting inmates to assert that the uncertainty violates their rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced Thursday that her state is ready to proceed with a double execution following a recent decision by the state Supreme Court that inmates are not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them.

In Wyoming, Lampert is scheduled to address lawmakers at a meeting of the Joint Judiciary Committee on May 12 in Rawlins. His office said he was unavailable for comment Thursday, and Deputy Director Steve Lindly said Thursday he was unable to comment on the matter.

In his earlier comments, Lampert said the substances used in the lethal injection process have become increasingly difficult to obtain anywhere in the United States or from foreign suppliers.

"United States and foreign manufacturers and pharmaceutical sources have restricted the sale of such substances for use in the execution process," he said.

Wyoming's only death row inmate is Dale Wayne Eaton, formerly of Riverton who is pressing a federal appeal of the state death sentence he received in 2004 in the rape and killing of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell of Billings, Mont.

Without naming Eaton, Lampert stated in his memo to lawmakers that it's difficult to predict when legal reviews will be exhausted but it could occur within the next year.

"Without an alternative method of execution authority by statute there is a very real possibility that the Wyoming Department of Corrections would be unable to carry out an execution," Lampert wrote.

Lampert urged lawmakers to study the issue and amend state law to authorize a backup method of execution.

Cheyenne lawyer Terry Harris is on a team of lawyers representing Eaton in his appeal. An attempt to reach Harris for comment wasn't immediately successful on Thursday.

Current Wyoming law specifies the use of lethal gas as a backup

method of execution. However, the law says gas could only be used as an alternative if lethal injection were found to be unconstitutional.

The state doesn't have a functioning gas chamber.

The Wyoming Legislature previously rejected considering a bill that would have specified that the state could use firing squads if lethal drugs weren't available.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, proposed the firing squad bill. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee.

"Just because my bill didn't make introduction doesn't mean the problem went away," Burns said Thursday.

"Whether they go with firing squad or some other form of execution doesn't matter a whole lot to me, but they do have to find a different secondary form of execution to the gas chamber," Burns said. "Right now, they can only get to it by lethal injection being declared unconstitutional."

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Legislature, Wyoming