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Attorneys File New Challenge To Dunlap Execution

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Nathan Dunlap (credit: Colorado Governor's Office)

Nathan Dunlap (credit: Colorado Governor’s Office)

DENVER (AP) – Attorneys for the man convicted of ambushing and killing four people at a Colorado pizzeria in 1993 filed a lawsuit Thursday saying the state’s plans for his execution in August could cause prolonged and excruciating pain, a violation of the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The lawsuit also says the state Corrections Department is planning in secret for the execution, violating Dunlap’s due process rights.

Dunlap has been on death row since 1996, when a jury convicted him of murder and sentenced him to die for the shooting deaths of four employees — three of them teenagers — who were cleaning a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in the Denver suburb of Aurora after hours.

Dunlap, then 19, had recently lost a job there.

A judge scheduled his execution for the week of Aug. 18, with the day to be set by the head of the Corrections Department. It would be the first execution in Colorado since 1997.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Dunlap’s last guaranteed appeal in February, but his attorneys are fighting on multiple fronts to spare his life. They have asked Gov. John Hickenlooper for clemency and said they will file other legal challenges, including arguing that Dunlap cannot be executed until after he finishes a 75-year prison term for robbery and that making him wait on death row for a decade and a half is cruel and unusual punishment.

Hickenlooper has not said whether he will grant clemency or when he will decide.

The lawsuit filed Thursday says Colorado’s death penalty law, which mandates execution by lethal injection, is too vague because does not specify all the drugs and dosage amounts that can be used.

It also says the law does not list required qualifications for the people who carry out the execution nor include medical safeguards, and that exposes Dunlap to the risk of “conscious and agonizing suffering.”

The suit claims the Corrections Department has a “secret protocol” for executions, and that officials plan to use a combination of three execution drugs when the statute calls for using a single drug.

Bobby Stephens, who was shot in the face at the restaurant but survived, told a Denver television station that Dunlap should be executed.

Stephens said if someone takes a person’s life unwillingly in such a horrific manner, the person shouldn’t be allowed to live.

RELATED: Nathan Dunlap Expresses Regret In Petition DVD For Gov. Hickenlooper

By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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