The Nevada Supreme court faces an issue of the highest importance when it hears Department of Corrections v. Dozier on Tuesday morning. It will decide whether Nevada can constitutionally execute a man by utilizing an experimental cocktail of drugs, including a paralytic, which will paralyze Nevada prisoner Scott Dozier's diaphragm muscles and respiratory system and risk death by suffocation.
The State of Nevada plans to use a lethal injection scheme that has never been used before in or out of the United States. The experimental plan includes the use of a sedative, diazepam, a powerful opioid painkiller, fentanyl, and a paralytic, cisastracurium.
The use of the paralytic creates the unnecessary risk that Mr. Dozier will remain conscious during the execution, despite the administration of the other drugs, but will be unable to communicate his consciousness. This will result in a torturous death akin to waterboarding.
Our “friend of the court” brief argues that the framers of the Nevada Constitution gave greater protections to Nevadans when it comes to capital punishment. Rather than mirror the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” Article 1, Section 6 of the Nevada Constitution bans punishment that is either cruel or unusual. Thus, if this experimental execution protocol is either cruel or unusual, it must not be implemented.
The State’s plan to test this radical new drug combination on a prisoner is certainly unusual, and causing death by suffocation is not only cruel, but torture.
We hope the Nevada Supreme Court will recognize this and stop the State from conducting an unconstitutional execution.