nashville -- A federal judge's ruling Wednesday that Tennessee's lethal injection procedure could cause excruciating pain is another blow to the three-drug cocktail used by every state that executes by lethal injection.
Federal judges reached similar conclusions in Missouri and California last year, and now states have to decide whether to defend the three-drug method or find a new way to put inmates to death by injection.
Death penalty opponents were heartened that three federal judges in three different states made similar findings.
"It's definitely encouraging to know they're looking at this," said John Holdridge, director of the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project. "I think there will be a general consensus one day soon" that the method is inhumane.
But Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that the rulings represented only temporary delays, and that executions could resume if states were able to fix their protocols.