Lawyers for Ga. death row inmate call for a thorough investigation into execution drug problem

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ATLANTA — On Monday lawyers for a Georgia death row inmate whose execution was postponed because of a problem with the lethal injection drug called for a transparent and meaningful investigation into the issue.

Kelly Gissendaner was scheduled for execution at 7 p.m. on March 2. Corrections officials told reporters around 11 p.m. that they were postponing the execution "out of an abundance of caution" because the lethal injection drug appeared "cloudy." The next day, the Department of Corrections announced it was temporarily suspending executions until it could more carefully analyze the drug.

"A self-investigation with opaque results is unacceptable," Gissendaner's lawyers wrote in a complaint filed in federal court in Atlanta.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens had no comment on the complaint, spokeswoman Lauren Kane said in an email.

Between the time her scheduled execution was called off and the time when corrections officials announced they were suspending all executions, Gissendaner suffered 13 hours of anxiety and fear about when and how the state might try to execute her, her lawyers argued. That constitutes "unconstitutional torment and uncertainty," they wrote.

Gissendaner's lawyers want a federal judge to order the state to disclose information necessary for a "meaningful investigation" into the events surrounding the cancellation of her execution and the problems with the drugs. They also asked a judge to prohibit the state from proceeding with Gissendaner's execution until the court has concluded her constitutional rights will not be violated.

"This Court must intervene, lest (state officials) be permitted to rubber-stamp their own demonstrably-defective processes and again resume executions behind a veil of secrecy," Gissendaner's lawyers wrote.

A 2013 Georgia law prohibits the release of any identifying information about the source of execution drugs or any entity involved in an execution, classifying that information as a "confidential state secret."

Gissendaner is the only woman on Georgia's death row and would have been the first woman executed by the state in 70 years. She was convicted of murder in the February 1997 slaying of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. Prosecutors said she conspired with her lover, Gregory Owen, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death. Owen is serving a life prison sentence and is eligible for parole in eight years.

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