Virginia inmate facing execution argues against drug ‘cocktail’

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By Ian Simpson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON A Virginia inmate set to be executed
on Wednesday for murdering two young sisters during a 2006
killing spree has asked the Supreme Court for a stay, arguing
that the first-ever use of compounded lethal drugs violates his
constitutional rights.

Ricky Gray, 39, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on
Wednesday evening at the Greensville Correctional Center if the
U.S. high court turns down his bid for a stay.

Gray’s lawyers filed an emergency petition with the Supreme
Court on Tuesday, saying that the three-drug combination could
cause Gray unnecessary suffering and thereby violate
constitutional guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment.

The execution would mark the first time a U.S. state has
used two of the drugs – midazolam and potassium chloride –
provided by a compounding pharmacy, according to the court
filing.

Gray’s lawyers argue that compounding pharmacies typically
follow an informal recipe attempting to approximate the patented
process approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Midazolam is an anesthetic and potassium chloride stops the
heart. The third drug in the so-called cocktail, rocuronium
bromide, causes paralysis

Gray’s attorneys say that midazolam has already failed to
render prisoners unconscious during executions in Alabama,
Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have stopped making some drugs
available for use in executions, and Virginia state law allows
the vendor’s identity to remain secret.

Arizona last month reached a settlement with lawyers for
death row inmates that would bar midazolam from use in
executions.

Gray was sentenced to die for the 2006 slayings of sisters
Ruby Harvey, 4, and Stella Harvey, 9, in Richmond. He also
killed their parents, Bryan Harvey, 49, and Kathryn Harvey, 39.

His accomplice, Ray Dandridge, was sentenced to life. The
pair also killed Ashley Baskerville, 21, who had been a lookout
when Gray killed the Harveys as well as her mother, Mary Tucker,
47, and stepfather Percyell Tucker, 55.

Gray has said he is willing to die by firing squad, which is
not an option for executions in Virginia.

If carried out, the execution will be second in the United
States this year. The United States has executed 1,453 people
since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center.



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