BALTIMORE (AP) – The state faces a deadline Thursday to respond to a lawsuit by a man convicted of murder in Maryland and Maine that claims Maryland’s method of execution by lethal injection is tantamount to torture.

On Tuesday, a Baltimore judge ruled the case should be heard in Baltimore County, where Steven Oken was sentenced to death, and not in the city, where he is scheduled to die in June. The judge also gave the state until the end of the business day Thursday to respond to the lawsuit filed by attorney Fred Warren Bennett on behalf of convicted triple murderer Steven Oken.

The suit does not claim Oken, scheduled to die the week of June 14, should not be executed, but says that if he is, it should be done in a way that does not inflict unnecessary pain and suffering.

Bennett claims in the suit that the state’s current three-drug method of lethal injection uses a single dose of short-acting barbiturate instead of a continuous stream, making it highly unlikely the drug would sedate Oken throughout the execution.

The suit also claims the American Veterinary Medicine Association condemns the use of one of the drugs, Pavulon, which paralyzes the muscles and stops breathing, for euthanizing animals.

The third drug, potassium chloride, is used to stop the heart, but does not do so when given intravenously, stopping only breathing and causing the prisoner to suffocate, the suit claims. Potassium chloride also causes an extremely painful burning sensation, the suit claims.

The suit asks that Oken’s execution be postponed while the court considers the legal challenge.

Oken was sentenced to death in 1991 for raping and murdering Dawn Marie Garvin, 20, of White Marsh. She was the first of three women Oken was convicted of killing in Maryland and Maine in 1987.

Oken received a life sentence for the murder of Lori Ward, a clerk at a motel in Kittery, Maine. He was was taken into custody in Freeport, Maine, the day after Ward’s slaying.

AP-ES-05-27-04 1402EDT

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