Lawyers for executed Virginia man say he may have died painfully

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By Joseph Ax

<span class="articleLocation”>Lawyers for a convicted killer are calling for
an investigation into his Wednesday night execution in Virginia,
saying a delay in the process suggested he underwent “pain and
suffering inconsistent with his constitutional rights.”

Ricky Gray, 39, died by lethal injection at 9:42 p.m. at
Greensville Correctional Center.

He had been sentenced to death for the 2006 slayings of
sisters Ruby Harvey, 4, and Stella Harvey, 9. He also killed
their parents and confessed to participating in the murder of
another family days later.

His attorneys said in a statement that a curtain that kept
Gray from view while corrections employees inserted an
intravenous line remained closed for more than 30 minutes, far
longer than usual.

Gray gasped and snored after the first of three drugs, a
sedative known as midazolam, was administered. That drug had not
previously been used by Virginia in executions. The noises could
have been a sign that Gray was still conscious and could feel
pain, his lawyer said.

The attorneys said that in addition a doctor emerged from
behind the curtain to check Gray’s heart after the injections.
The normal protocol calls for the doctor to remain hidden and
determine the time of death based on a heart monitor.

A spokeswoman for the state department of corrections, Lisa
Kinney, said in an email that the initial delay occurred because
it took staff time to find a vein for IV insertion, a process
the department follows “with the utmost care.” She said Gray did
not react to a stimuli test after the sedative was administered,
contrary to his attorneys’ statement.

Critics have said that midazolam had failed to render
inmates unconscious properly during executions in other states,
causing them unnecessary pain.

In October, a man executed by Alabama heaved and coughed for
13 minutes before dying, and critics of capital punishment said
his reaction was caused by midazolam. They have said the drug
should be banned because it does not render a prisoner
sufficiently unconscious.

Gray’s attorneys unsuccessfully tried to have his execution
stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, arguing in part
that the midazolam used in Virginia was riskier because it came
from a compounding pharmacy, not a drug manufacturer.

Gray was the second inmate to be executed in the United
States this year.

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