Section 1983 and the Death Penalty

If you're a condemned prisoner who has lost on direct and collateral review, why not file a Section 1983 lawsuit, too?

Eight condemned Missouri prisoners appeal the dismissal of their 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 action challenging the manner in which Missouri’s written lethal injection protocol might be implemented in future executions. The prisoners allege the State of Missouri, through its officers Larry Crawford, James Purkett, and Terry Moore (collectively, Missouri), has a “well-documented history of employing incompetent and unqualified personnel to oversee [the] crucial element[s] of executions by lethal injection,” and “refusing properly to train the individuals to whom responsibility for crucial tasks in the lethal injection process is delegated.” Based on this history, the prisoners argue Missouri “will continue to employ such incompetent and unfit personnel for future executions.” The prisoners contend this possibility violates the Eighth Amendment by creating a substantial risk that Missouri’s written execution protocol will not be followed, resulting in the condemned prisoners being insufficiently anesthetized and suffering extreme pain before their deaths.
Middleton v. Crawford, No. 08-2807 (8th Cir. Nov. 10, 2009) (here) They lost on the legal issues, but are alive to fight another day.