Indiana Supreme Court to hear death penalty arguments this week

The justices of the Indiana Supreme Court will consider the fate of the state’s death penalty protocol when it hears arguments this week in a case challenging the legality of how the protocol was enacted.

The high court will hold oral arguments in the case of Roy Ward v. Robert Carter, Jr., et al., 46S03-1709-PL-00569, on Thursday after unanimously granting transfer to the challenge to Indiana’s death penalty protocol last month. The arguments come after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined the Indiana Department of Correction’s failure to enact new lethal-injection protocols under the Administrative Rules and Procedure Act, subject to public comment, made the death penalty protocol adopted in May 2014 “void and without effect.”

That protocol included a three-drug cocktail that has not yet been used in any state or federal execution. But before the Court of Appeals’ ruling, that cocktail was meant to be used in a lethal injection that would carry about Roy Ward’s death sentence. Ward was sentenced in 2007 after he was convicted in the 2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old Stacy Payne in Spencer County. He is one of 12 people on death row in Indiana.

In the aftermath of the Court of Appeals’ opinion, legal experts said the decision left the future of the death penalty in Indiana in limbo. Oral arguments will begin at 9:45 a.m. Thursday in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom.

Prior to the Ward oral arguments, the justices will hear arguments on petition to transfer in the case of Peter Dvorak v. State of Indiana, 53A01-1604-CR-00923, at 9 a.m. In that case, Peter Dvorak was charged with felony offer or sale of an unregistered security and acting as an unregistered agent. He moved to dismiss the charges on the basis that they were barred by the statute of limitations.

The Monroe Circuit Court disagreed and denied the motion to dismiss, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in May, finding the five-year statute of limitations had expired because he committed his offenses in 2007, but was not charged until 2015.

The state has petitioned the Supreme Court to accept jurisdiction over the case.

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