Execution procedures tightened
October 11, 2007
Prisons director Howard Skolnik said Thursday the protocols for Monday’s execution of William Castillo have been changed because of concerns raised in a case challenging lethal injection as unconstitutionally cruel.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear that argument in a Kentucky case where opponents are arguing there is evidence inmates are conscious and aware when they die by lethal injection.
Opponents say inmates are in agonizing pain – just unable to show it.
Skolnik said the execution will go as planned but to ensure Castillo is not suffering, he will receive double the dose of each of three drugs used in prior Nevada executions.
The first of those drugs renders the inmate unconscious. The second paralyzes him and the third stops the heart, causing death.
Skolnik said one other change has been made in the protocols, the sedative offered inmates before the execution is no longer an option for the inmate but mandatory.
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He said that change was made because of what he witnessed as deputy director when Sebastian Bridges was executed. Bridges entered the death chamber screaming and fighting with guards and had to be forcibly restrained.
Skolnik said Castillo, 34, still has several available appeals and that, if he changes his mind, the execution will be halted.
“We have the court order to proceed with the execution and unless the court or Mr. Castillo personally requests it be stopped, we will proceed,” he said.
Skolnik said the federal public defender will have access to Castillo until 20 minutes before the 8:30 p.m. execution.
“And I will ask him one last time,” he said. “He can make the call up until the first injection starts. After that, we can’t stop it.”
He said Castillo has given no indication he will change his mind and call off his Monday night execution.
“According to staff, he appears quite resolute in his decision,” he said.
“His refusal to take the sedative at that time would indicate to us that he does not want to die.”
Skolnik said Castillo asked for ice cream as part of his last meal and that prison officials have decided to give him a cheeseburger and three root beers to go with it.
He has been in prison 10 years since he was convicted of beating an 86-year-old retired teacher to death with a tire iron.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.