Court rules against death row inmate Roy Lee Ward

From Local Sources

Roy Lee Ward

ROCKPORT — The Indiana Supreme Court issued an opinion Tuesday upholding a lower court’s dismissal of a complaint filed by death row inmate Roy Lee Ward.

Ward had challenged procedures followed by the Indiana Department of Correction when they announced a change to the lethal injection protocol. Ward, who was from the Perry County town of Leopold, was 29 when he raped and murdered 15-year-old Stacy Payne at her Dale-area home.

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 Dec. 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, 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, 45, remains on death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City where he has been since 2007.

He was first convicted and sentenced to death in 2002, but the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the conviction in 2004 because of pretrial publicity. Ward was retried, convicted and again sentenced to death in 2007. His convictions and sentence have thus far been affirmed on appeal in courts.

Spencer County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Wilkinson said he was pleased with the latest ruling.

“There is bitter irony in Roy Ward arguing against the method to be used in his execution,” Wilkinson said. “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, Wilkinson said, it is his understanding 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,” Wilkinson said, “this is that case.”

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