“Louisiana Sues Its Own Death Row Prisoners”
Strange as it may sound — after all, when it comes to prison litigation, inmates are usually the ones suing the state — that’s the headline of this Solitary Watch report. Triggered by a death row prisoner’s earlier lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s execution procedures under state law, the state’s countersuit is a preemptive move to try to keep any more death row inmates from doing the same:
The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections last Friday sued every inmate on death row, in an effort to block any one of them from challenging the state’s lethal injection procedures. Each of the 84 prisoners in the “death house” at Angola State Penitentiary was personally served papers in the suit, said Nick Trenticosta, who has represented numerous clients on Angola’s death row.
Trenticosta, who is also director of the non-profit Center for Equal Justice in New Orleans, knows of no other instance in which a state sued its death row inmates en masse over legal questions relating to their execution. “I’ve been hanging around death penalty cases for 25 years,” Trenticosta said in a phone interview this morning, “and I have never seen anything like this.”
This case will probably make headlines because of ongoing litigation around the country regarding lethal injection procedures, but I wonder if it might have ramifications beyond the death penalty context: Will states start using preemptive countersuits to keep inmates from challenging their conditions of confinement, too? Is there any precedent for this, or has Louisiana stumbled upon a totally novel litigation technique? As always, readers who know more are invited to leave comments.