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See Inside July 2007

Reasonable Doubt

Data secrecy clouds judgments of lethal injection

On May 13, 2005, Connecticut prison officials performed the first execution in the state since 1960. Following a protocol dictated in Oklahoma in 1977, they gave serial killer Michael Ross an overdose of an ultrashort-acting barbiturate, a chemical paralytic and a heart-stopping salt via an intravenous line. In 20 minutes, he was pronounced dead. But state officials were not finished with him: 20 minutes later the medical examiner drew a sample of blood from his femoral artery; hours later a second extraction was done during autopsy.

“We have to investigate it” as a homicide, explains H. Wayne Carver II, Connecticut’s chief medical examiner. “Part of what you want out of an autopsy in these [homicide] cases is to determine not only what happened but also what didn’t happen.”

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