Montana judge moves lethal injection case to trial, defines sedative required for execution

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HELENA, Montana — A constitutional challenge to Montana's execution methods is going to trial.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena ruled Thursday the Sept. 2 trial will focus on whether the sedative that Montana's lethal injection protocols call for would cause excruciating and terrifying death.

Montana's two death row inmates say the sedative pentobarbital does not adhere to a state law requiring an ultra fast-acting barbiturate be used in capital punishment.

The Montana Legislature has mandated but never defined what an ultra fast-acting drug is. In his order, Sherlock says lawmakers intended for the drug to take effect almost immediately.

Both sides are planning to present medical experts at trial.

The state's lethal injection methods were last changed in 2013 and have never been used to carry out an execution.

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