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Friday, June 24, 2011

Convicted killer "grimaced" and "jerked" during his execution last night

After spending nearly 30 years on death row, Roy Blankeship was put to death last night in Jackson, Georgia.

His was the first execution to take place in Georgia since the state's supply of sodium thiopental was confiscated by the DEA in April. It was also the first in Georgia to be carried out using pentobarbital as a sedative in sodium thiopental's place.

Opponents of the death penalty argued — and a Danish pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug agreed — that the use of pentobarbital in executions was unsafe because it had not been tested for that purpose. Both the Georgia and U.S. supreme courts rejected appeals on that basis because it has, in fact, been used in a dozen executions in other states.

Following the execution, it was reported that Blankeship had "grimaced" and "jerked" after he received the injection of pentobarbital, the first in the three-drug cocktail. And death penalty opponents say it's proof pentobarbital shouldn't have been used. Here's the AP's description of the procedure:

As the injection began, he jerked his head toward his left arm and made a startled face while blinking rapidly. He soon lurched to his right arm, lunging with his mouth agape twice. He then held his head up, and his chin smacked as he mouthed words that were inaudible to observers.

Within three minutes, his movements slowed. About six minutes after the injection began, a nurse checked his vital signs to ensure he was unconscious before the execution could continue. He was pronounced dead nine minutes later. His eyes never closed.

Kathryn Hamoudah of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty wrote today, "The very fact that our state would use an execution to test a new protocol is outrageous and irresponsible. Our resolve to end state killing in Georgia has been strengthened by last night's execution."

Blankenship was sentenced to death three separate times — the sentence was twice overturned — for murdering Sarah Mims Bowen, who died of heart failure in her apartment after she was sexually assaulted.

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