By DYLAN LOVAN Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky judge has declined to remove a court injunction that has blocked executions in the state for more than a decade.
Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd, whose order blocked Kentucky’s lethal injections in 2010, wrote in a ruling Wednesday he would hold off on deciding on the ban, saying there have been changes to lethal injection regulations since then. He said there may also be constitutional questions about the new regulations that have to be settled.
Kentucky prison officials have carried out three executions since 1976, and none since 2008. There are about two dozen inmates on the state’s death row.
Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman, a Republican who took office in January, has called on Shepherd to reverse his injunction, arguing that the families of victims “have suffered in limbo for long enough.”
“They deserve the justice that was lawfully delivered by a jury,” Coleman said in a media release.
Coleman’s office argued in a hearing in Shepherd’s court last week that recent changes made by the state to capital punishment regulations brings them into compliance with the concerns raised by the 2010 injunction. The new regulation updates the methods by which inmates are found ineligible for execution due to intellectual disabilities. A motion filed by Coleman’s office in March said other concerns raised in the injunction, including the drugs used in lethal injection, were previously resolved.
“There is no longer any basis for the injunction, and the court should lift it,” Coleman’s motion said.
Coleman said he would quickly appeal Shepherd’s ruling.
Shepherd noted in the ruling Wednesday that the plaintiff who originally sought the injunction, inmate Gregory Wilson, had his death sentence commuted by former Gov. Matt Bevin in 2019. The judge wrote that there were questions about Wilson’s mental disabilities, along with “unresolved issues concerning the lethal injection protocols.”
“Because the death warrant against plaintiff Wilson no longer exists, and the regulations have been amended, the court can see no reason to address the issue of injunctive relief at this time,” Shepherd wrote.
Wilson was a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by several death row inmates challenging the state’s execution rules.
Shepherd halted lethal injections as the state prepared to execute Wilson for a 1987 murder in Kenton County. The judge expressed concerns about how the state would determine if an inmate is mentally disabled and whether the use of a three-drug mixture caused an unconstitutional amount of pain and suffering.