In December 2006 an appeals court in Maryland ruled that the state could not carry out executions until a legislative panel reviewed the manual's protocol for lethal injections. The Maryland Court of Appeals said the manual was never given a public hearing or properly submitted to a joint committee before the Department of Corrections adopted it.
It appears that Maryland will now reinstate execution by lethal injection. Here's the latest on this:
The manual is the first public document to lay out execution procedures since Maryland reinstated the death penalty in 1978. The biggest change is that the new regulations require medical personnel who inject the lethal combination of drugs into an inmate's veins to find an alternative to the arms if those veins are too scarred to accept a needle.
The change was prompted by a lawsuit by Vernon L. Evans Jr., who said his arms were so scarred by drug use that he would be harmed when the three lethal drugs were administered. Evans is one of five inmates on Maryland's death row.
Other changes in the manual requested by the state's public defender's office include allowing the corrections chief to grant an inmate's request for a special last meal; allowing the inmate to choose which of his attorneys he wants to witness his execution; and allowing family members to visit as late as three hours before the execution instead of four.
The procedures also prohibit the state from using a medical procedure known as a "cut down" to guide the needle to a hard-to-locate vein. A cut down allows the inmate's skin to be cut, a method used in several states that has been criticized as antiquated and as causing the prisoner pain.
Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, called the document's public release "a step" toward making executions more humane.
"In Maryland it's always been a very secretive process," she said. "Now we can see what they say they're going to do and analyze it carefully."
Read the full report here.