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Nevada prisons chief would halt execution over complications

December 18, 2021 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada prisons chief who will be responsible for carrying out the state’s first execution by lethal injection in more than 15 year if the courts allow it to proceed assured a federal judge Friday he would halt the procedure if there were any complications.

“I’m going to err on the side of caution,” said Charles Daniels, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections.

His testimony came as lawyers for convicted inmate Zane Michael Floyd try to prove the state’s plan for a never-before-used combination of three or four drugs including the anesthetic ketamine and the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl would subject Floyd to an agonizingly cruel and inhumane death.

Witnesses for the state have testified this week that’s not the case because the first stages of application of the drugs would render Floyd unconscious and unaware of any pain.

No date has been set for the execution that would be carried out at the state prison in Ely.

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Floyd, 46, does not want to die. He was convicted in 2000 of killing four people and wounding a fifth in a 1999 shotgun attack at a Las Vegas grocery store.

U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware heard four days of testimony this week, including more than six hours on Friday before wrapping up. He didn’t set a date for the next hearing, but has said the proceedings could continue into January.

Nevada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Ihsan Azzam, testified on Thursday he could not give an opinion on the effectiveness of the combination of drugs at issue.

Daniels said Friday he too lacks expertise needed to render such an opinion. He said he relies on trained medical officials for such decisions, including the attending physician who would be present at the execution.

“I don’t even play a doctor on TV,” Daniels said.

“When in doubt, we can stop this ... When in doubt, we will halt it,” he testified. “If the attending physician is advising me to stop, we’re stopping, period. I’m not going to override the attending physician.”

The state wanted to execute Floyd this summer, but state and federal judges have issued orders postponing Floyd’s execution to allow time to hear challenges to the constitutionality of the lethal injection plan drawn up by prison officials and the combination of drugs.

Floyd also has appeals pending before the Nevada Supreme Court and the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals in San Francisco.