JACKSON, Ga. (AP) — Georgia’s attorney general on Thursday moved to halt the video recording of an execution scheduled for that night, which could become the first known video recording of a U.S. execution since 1992.
State prosecutors on Thursday asked a state judge in Butts County for permission to appeal her ruling allowing the video recording to the Georgia Supreme Court.
The state’s top court on Wednesday had let the lower court’s ruling stand, citing a procedural error by the state. The court held the state had not moved through the proper channels to appeal.
The recording was requested by another death row inmate seeking evidence of problems with Georgia’s reconfigured lethal injection procedure.
The inmate whose death could be recorded, Andrew DeYoung, was scheduled to die Wednesday night but his execution was delayed to 7 p.m. Thursday.
At the Georgia state prison in Jackson Wednesday night, Attorney General Sam Olens would not identify the reason for the delay but noted that the state had never recorded an execution before. State officials were scrambling Wednesday night with the logistics of allowing a video recording for an event that is usually only witnessed by prison officials, journalists and family members.
In court filings, state prosecutors argued having a videographer in the execution chamber could jeopardize the state’s carefully planned security. They also said creating a video came with the risk of it being distributed.
The judge who ordered the recording said it must be kept under seal by the court.
Lawyers for death row inmate Gregory Walker, who sought the recording, said it would provide critical evidence in his appeal about the effects of pentobarbital. Walker’s attorneys want to show that Georgia’s reconfigured three-drug lethal injection procedure does not adequately sedate the inmate and could cause pain and suffering.
DeYoung was convicted of stabbing his parents and sister to death in 1993 in a plot to get the family’s money to start a business.
The state’s decision to delay the process came less than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court’s denied a stay of execution. The Georgia Supreme Court earlier voted unanimously to allow the procedure to be recorded, and a video team was on hand to tape the execution.
Lawyers believe the only other time an execution was recorded was in California in 1992, when attorneys were challenging the use of gas as a method of execution, said Walker’s lawyer Brian Kammer. That is also the understanding of Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment.
Dieter said the videotape of the California execution was later destroyed and he was aware of no other court-ordered videotaped execution.
Dieter said Timothy McVeigh’s 2001 execution at a federal prison in Indiana was broadcast on closed-circuit TV to a gathering of survivors and victims’ family members in Oklahoma City, but there was no indication it was taped.
In seeking a stay, DeYoung’s attorneys argued that using pentobarbital would cause DeYoung to suffer based partly on accounts of Roy Blankenship’s June 23 execution. An Associated Press reporter witnessed Blankenship jerking his head several times during the procedure, looking at the injection sites in his arms and muttering after the pentobarbital was injected into his veins.
It was the first time the drug was used in Georgia. States have been turning to pentobarbital to carry out executions since the manufacturer of another sedative announced it would not resume production in the U.S. Pentobarbital has been used this year to put at least 18 inmates to death in eight states.
Death penalty critics have said Blankenship’s unusual movements were proof that Georgia shouldn’t have used pentobarbital to sedate him before injecting pancuronium bromide to paralyze him and then potassium chloride to stop his heart. State prosecutors have raised questions about the timeline cited in the AP’s account and argued Blankenship’s movements occurred before the sedative took hold.
The state attorney general’s office has said adequate safeguards are in place to prevent needless suffering, including a consciousness check before the second and third drugs are administered. The consciousness check was used for the first time in Blankenship’s execution.
In addition, prosecutors argued the courts have held that a certain amount of pain is acceptable during an execution.
DeYoung was convicted of killing his mother, father and 14-year-old sister, Sarah, when DeYoung was a student at Kennesaw State University.
Authorities said DeYoung cut the telephone wires of his family’s home in the middle of the night. He then stabbed his mother repeatedly while she was sleeping upstairs, and then stabbed his father and sister, prosecutors said. A brother sleeping downstairs escaped after hearing the commotion and ran to a neighbor’s house for help.