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Kentucky to adopt protocol for executions

FRANKFORT — Death Row executions in Kentucky will remain on hold through at least April 15.

The state Department of Corrections has decided to comply with a November state Supreme Court decision and will adopt a lethal injection protocol through the lengthy administrative regulation process, said Jennifer Brislin, a spokeswoman for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, which includes the Department of Corrections.

The department is drafting a regulation that will likely be filed with lawmakers this month, Brislin said.

It's difficult to say how long it would take the lethal injection protocol to be enacted. If the department files the regulation by Dec. 15, the deadline for executive branch regulations, the earliest it could be enacted is April 15. But it could take longer.

The process includes a public hearing as well as an opportunity for the public to comment via e-mails or written letters about various aspects of the lethal injection protocol. The Department of Corrections then can respond to those comments. The Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee, a legislative panel, would also review the regulation. The House or Senate Judiciary committees could also choose to consider the proposal.

However, even if a legislative committee denies the regulation, Gov. Steve Beshear can overrule the rejection.

In November, the state Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that the state could not execute anyone via lethal injection until the Department of Corrections formally adopts the lethal injection protocol.

Three Death Row inmates — Thomas C. Bowling, Ralph Baze Jr. and Brian Keith Moore — had argued to the court that the Department of Corrections ignored administrative procedures and did not adopt a detailed procedure for lethal injections through the administrative regulation process.

The Department of Corrections had argued the state vetted the lethal injection protocol through various court hearings in cases challenging the lethal injection process.

Just two days before the Supreme Court decision, Attorney General Jack Conway had asked Gov. Steve Beshear to set execution dates for three Death Row inmates, arguing that the majority of their appeals had been exhausted.

Beshear has said he will wait and consider the court's ruling before making a decision on whether to set an execution date for the three men.