Indiana Supreme Court Rules Against Roy Lee Ward in Execution Drug Challenge; Ward Remains on Death Row and Moves Closer to Setting of Execution Date

The Indiana Supreme Court issued an opinion on Tuesday upholding a lower court’s dismissal of a complaint filed by Roy Lee Ward in which he challenged procedures followed by the Indiana Department of Correction when they announced a change to the lethal injection protocol.

In May 2014, the Department of Correction announced it would alter the three-drug combination used for executions, replacing Sodium Thiopental with Brevital- a barbituate anesthetic in the same class. On December 22, 2015, Roy Lee Ward filed a complaint in the LaPorte Circuit Court against the Department of Correction alleging that the change to the lethal injection protocol violated his rights under the Indiana Administrative Rules and Procedures Act (ARPA) among other rights.

The trial court in LaPorte County granted the State’s request to dismiss the complaint, a decision that was later reversed by the Indiana Court of Appeals before winding up in the Indiana Supreme Court.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Christopher Goff, the Court held that the Department of Correction’s lethal injection procedures do not constitute rules and are exempt from the rule-making restrictions of the ARPA.

Since the Department’s lethal injection protocol does not require Ward to alter his conduct in any way, it does not have the effect of law, the Court wrote.

Ward remains on death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City where he has been since 2007. Ward was convicted of the brutal rape and murder of Dale teenager, Stacy Payne, in 2001. The convictions were later reversed on appeal due to perceived pre-trial publicity surrounding the case. Ward was again sentenced to death in 2007 following a second trial conducted in Vanderburgh County with Clay County jurors in which Ward entered guilty pleas to both rape and murder.

Spencer County Prosecuting Attorney, Dan Wilkinson, was pleased with the ruling saying:

“There is bitter irony in Roy Ward arguing against the method to be used in his execution. Having been involved in the first trial and serving as co-counsel in the re-trial, I will never be able to forget the horrific images of what he did to Stacy Payne nor the innocent life he so coldly and brutally took away from her in July 2001.

During the second trial, Ward’s own psychological expert testified that he was a psychopath incapable of feeling empathy or remorse. I am pleased that this particular hurdle to imposition of Ward’s sentence has now been removed. Having exhausted all of the normal appeals, my understanding is that the Department of Correction will proceed developing their new lethal injection protocol at which time the Indiana Supreme Court will set Ward’s execution date. If there is only one case or one defendant where the death penalty is called for, this is that case.”

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