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Execution of quadruple murderer ‘possible but highly unlikely’

Updated February 4, 2022 - 6:36 am

State officials on Thursday said its unlikely that prosecutors will be able to obtain a warrant to carry out death row inmate Zane Floyd’s execution before Nevada’s supply of one of the lethal injection drugs expires.

“It’s theoretically possible but highly unlikely,” Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Alexander Chen said during a hearing in U.S. District Court.

Floyd, who was sentenced to die for fatally shooting four people and gravely wounding another at a Las Vegas grocery store more than two decades ago, has multiple appeals in front of the Nevada Supreme Court. The high court would have to make decisions in all of them in just over a week in order for prosecutors to obtain the warrant.

Because a warrant has to be granted at least two weeks before an intended execution, prosecutors would have to obtain the order by Feb. 13 in order to carry out Floyd’s sentence before the state’s supply of ketamine expires on Feb. 28, Chief Deputy Attorney General Randall Gilmer said.

Officials have indicated they would be unable to acquire additional ketamine, which is an anesthetic similar to PCP, once the current supply expires.

The plan to execute Floyd calls for a combination of drugs never been used to carry out a death sentence. Experts called by Floyd’s lawyers during an evidentiary hearing in November testified that the drugs could cause extreme suffering while Floyd is paralyzed and suffocating.

The drug cocktail also includes the painkiller fentanyl or the similar drug alfentanil, and potassium chloride or potassium acetate. According to court documents, the proposed protocol from the Department of Corrections indicates that the state also may use cisatracurium, a paralytic drug.

On Jan. 26, U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware ordered the prison system to provide him with credential information about the attending physician, EMTs and personnel set to administer the lethal combination of drugs to Floyd.

But once a prison official reached out to those tentatively set to participate in the execution, at least three backed out of the process, citing concerns over their safety, court records show.

“NDOC no longer has an attending physician or EMTs willing to participate in the execution,” William Gittere, the department’s deputy director of operations, stated in court documents filed last week.

One of the proposed attending physicians was excluded from consideration due to “additional information” that Gittere wrote he learned of last week.

Floyd’s attorneys, federal public defenders Brad Levenson and David Anthony, questioned why the department waited so long before inquiring for the “basic qualifications” of medical personnel.

“This litigation has been pending for almost a year, and NDOC has insisted upon expedited resolution of this matter so it can perform the execution before the end of February,” Floyd’s lawyers wrote in court records. “Yet NDOC only made an inquiry regarding the qualifications of the individuals one month beforehand, and only in response to this Court’s order for that information.”

Floyd’s lawyers also wrote that the officials intended to administer the drugs to Floyd appear to only have a background in law enforcement, and that state officials have not indicated who is intended to train the administrators.

The Department of Corrections has argued that Floyd and the public are not entitled to know the identity or credentials of the medical personnel and drug administrators, and that requirements outlined in the execution protocol should be enough to determine its constitutionality.

Boulware on Thursday said he was “committed to maintaining the confidentiality” of the personnel in question, although additional information was necessary because the protocol was too vague.

“But I did expect that the NDOC would have that information and they would maintain that information,” he said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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