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Indiana Death Row Inmate Suing To Block Executions

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The lawsuit says Indiana's death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. (Steve Burns, WFIU/WTIU News)

A death row inmate is suing the governor and state prison commissioner in an attempt to block Indiana’s use of capital punishment.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Roy Lee Ward says the death penalty violates several portions of Indiana’s Constitution, including the right to life and the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Ward was sentenced to death in 2002 for rape and murder, but has no execution date.

Attorney David Frank is representing Ward. He says the lawsuit doesn’t dispute the severity of the crimes those on death row committed, but says the state hasn’t made a case for why those specific inmates should face death.

"The practice and implementation by the state of Indiana of capital punishment has become vindictive, illegitimate and arbitrary and capricious," Frank says. 

The lawsuit also points to several neighboring states that have abolished their death penalties. It says the Washington Supreme Court found that state's death penalty unconstitutional for similar reasons. 

The suit asks for both a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop Indiana from carrying out any executions.

Ward previously sued the state for the way it went about selecting a new lethal injection method. 

Ward argued the Department of Correction skirted rule-making processes required by state law when it adopted the new lethal injection cocktail.

Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled against Ward, allowing the state to use the new drug.

In 2017 legislators included language in the state budget that allows Indiana to keep the identity of vendors who provide lethal injection drugs confidential. 

Indiana hasn’t executed anyone for nearly a decade and has no scheduled executions. 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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