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Dorrie Toney, [email protected], 404-302-0128

May 22, 2024

ATLANTA – The ACLU of Georgia, the Georgia Resource Center, and the law firm BakerHostetler are in court this week challenging the State of Georgia’s plan to execute Michael Nance by lethal injection. Nance's attorneys have presented evidence at trial showing the severely fragile and compromised state of Nance's veins, which Nance alleges creates a substantial risk that attempting to execute him by lethal injection would cause severe pain. Nance’s lawsuit is the first civil rights challenge to Georgia’s lethal injection protocols to ever reach trial.

“Nance’s poor health and fragile veins means there is a significant risk that any attempt by the State to execute him by lethal injection will be botched and bloody, resulting in extreme pain,” said Nance’s attorneys. “The evidence so far has shown that the Department of Corrections has neither the knowledge nor the training to handle the complications that are likely to arise. If the State insists in moving forward with Nance’s execution, it should be required to do it in a way that is quick and without prolonged suffering.”

The trial, presided over by Judge J.P. Boulee at the courthouse for the Northern District of Georgia, began  Monday, May 20. The court has heard from various witnesses so far, including Nance’s medical expert Dr. David Waisel, who has reviewed Nance’s medical records and examined Nance three different times over the past five years.

Waisel explained the fragile state of Nance’s veins and the substantial risk that any attempt by the State to execute Nance by lethal injection will be botched—with IV access being very difficult to establish and blown veins being likely—and result in severe pain and suffering. The State’s expert, who examined Nance for the first time the morning of trial, concluded that the State would be able to establish IV access on Nance and carry out the lethal injection.

Because Nance is challenging the State’s plan to execute him by lethal injection, under current United States Supreme Court law he is required to offer the court an alternative method of execution.  As part of this requirement, the court has also heard from Nance’s expert on firing squad, Dr. James Williams, who explained that, if conducted properly, execution by firing squad will result in near-instantaneous death—in stark contrast to lethal injection, which is likely to be prolonged and painful for Nance.

Tomorrow, the court will hear from the medical team members who carry out executions in Georgia. These critical witnesses will testify remotely and with their names and faces concealed.

Nance originally filed this lethal injection challenge in January 2020. That challenge was initially dismissed by the district court, a decision that Nance appealed. The appeal ultimately went to the United States Supreme Court, where Nance won. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals then overturned the district court’s dismissal and sent it back to the district court to continue litigation. Nance has been incarcerated since 1993.