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Panel approves contract for expert witness to review Alabama's execution drugs

MONTGOMERY (AP) — A legislative panel on Thursday approved a contract for the state to pay $400 an hour to a Massachusetts physician to analyze the combination of drugs used in Alabama executions.

Members of the Legislature's Contract Review Committee made no comment as they approved Attorney General Troy King's office contracting with Dr. Mark Dershwitz to study the drugs used in Alabama executions.

The head of the attorney general's death penalty division, Clay Crenshaw, has said Dershwitz could be called as a witness for the state in the trial of a lawsuit filed by death row inmates Willie McNair and James Callahan.

That case is scheduled to be tried Oct. 2 in federal court in Montgomery.

McNair and Callahan claim lethal injection can be painful and violates the U.S. Constitution's mandate against cruel and unusual punishment.

Dershwitz is a University of Massachusetts professor of anesthesiology who has been an expert witness on behalf of several states, defending their lethal injection methods against constitutional challenges.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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