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Doc Once Banned From Executions Hired

  Breaking Legal News  -   POSTED: 2007/11/15 15:33

A surgeon once barred from participating in state executions because of a federal judge's concerns about his dyslexia and lack of expertise has been hired for a federal government execution team, according to court records.

The federal ruling keeping Dr. Alan Doerhoff from working on Missouri executions was eventually overturned, but state officials have said they would not use Doerhoff again.

Doerhoff was the target of more than 20 malpractice lawsuits and was reprimanded by the state for not disclosing them.

The federal government has hired Doerhoff as part of a team that executes condemned prisoners by injection at the federal prison at Terre Haute, Ind., according to a court pleading filed by six inmates sentenced to die there. The inmates challenged the government for relying on Doerhoff's help in performing execution duties.

Calls to Doerhoff and the U.S. Department of Justice were not immediately returned. His hiring was first reported Thursday in the Los Angeles Times.

A spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons said the agency could not comment and would not identify anyone on its execution team.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, called Doerhoff's federal role "surprising and disturbing" and proof that "people are in the dark about much of this."

Last year, U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. called for reforms to Missouri executions and ruled that Doerhoff, 63, of Jefferson City, could not participate "in any manner, at any level" in the state's lethal injection process.

The doctor said in a deposition hearing that he is dyslexic, transposes numbers, and mixed and administered lethal drugs without a written lethal injection protocol, despite his lack of training in anesthesiology. A federal appeals court overturned Gaitan's ruling.

According to the newly revealed court records, Doerhoff was brought on at Terre Haute to develop execution procedures, place and monitor intravenous lines, assess a condemned inmate's level of consciousness after anesthesia is administered, and make a determination of death.

It's the only federal prison where executions occur, though executions there are on hold because the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the constitutionality of lethal injection in a Kentucky case.

It's not clear how long Doerhoff has been helping the federal government and whether he assisted in executions in the past, or in the planning for future ones. Some of the material in the court record was redacted, and attorney Paul Enzinna, who filed the inmates' pleading, declined to comment.


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