A condemned killer from Gwinnett County has sued Georgia’s prison system, saying he should be executed by firing squad because his veins are so narrow that an attempted lethal injection could cause him excruciating pain.
“Execution by firing squad is both swift and virtually painless,” said the federal lawsuit filed by death-row inmate Michael Wade Nance. “Evidence and recent experience strongly suggest that the firing squad is significantly more reliable than lethal injection.”
Nance was sentenced to death in 2002 by a Gwinnett jury for fatally shooting 43-year-old Gabor Balogh when Balogh resisted giving up his car to Nance. Nance had just robbed the Tucker Federal Savings and Loan in Lilburn and was looking for a getaway car to escape.
Nance’s appeals are in their final stages. He must submit filings to the U.S. Supreme Court by Feb. 12.
Nance’s veins are “severely compromised” and extremely difficult to locate, the lawsuit said. If lethal injection is attempted, there is a substantial risk that Nance’s veins will lose their integrity, leading to leakage of the pentobarbital into the surrounding tissue, the suit said.
This would lead to a “prolonged execution that will produce excruciating pain,” the suit said.
In addition, Nance has, for several years, been taking increased dosages of a drug to relieve chronic back pain. This drug has altered Nance’s brain chemistry in such a way to compromise the effectiveness of the pentobarbital, causing an even greater chance of him being in great pain for an extended period of time, the suit said.
For those reasons, a firing squad would prevent Nance from enduring cruel and unusual punishment during his execution, the suit said.
Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter, when notified Friday, said nothing about the new lawsuit changes his position that Nance should be executed for his crimes.
“If he needs a firing squad, then let him have it,” Porter said. “It’s certainly a unique request.”
Georgia once used firing squads to execute condemned inmates but that occurred no later than 1924, when the state began using the electric chair, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. After the state Supreme Court ruled the chair unconstitutional in 2001, Georgia switched to lethal injection and has used it ever since.
The last execution by firing squad nationwide occurred in 2010 in Utah, which still allows that method of capital punishment.
In 2017, Georgia death-row inmate J.W. Ledford Jr. also asked for a firing squad because he’d used the same drug for his chronic back pain as Nance. But courts rejected his request and he was put to death by lethal injection.
When asked about Nance’s lawsuit, State Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lori Benoit said her agency does not comment on pending litigation. Attempts to reach Nance’s lawyers were unsuccessful.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.
Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.