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October 25, 2010

Federal district judge blocks planned Arizona execution because of drug mystery

As detailed in this new piece from the Arizona Republic, a "federal judge today blocked Tuesday's planned execution of convicted killer Jeffrey Landrigan until Landrigan's attorneys and the court have the chance to evaluate the drugs that Arizona has obtained to carry out the execution by lethal injection."  Here are more the the particulars:

In a harshly worded ruling that refers to the state as "obstructive," U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn O. Silver issued a temporary restraining order stopping the execution until further notice.  Silver also ordered the Arizona Department of Corrections and the Arizona Attorney General's Office to immediately turn over information that she requested Saturday night about the drugs.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard told The Arizona Republic that he will appeal the restraining order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to try to carry out the execution as scheduled.  "These are very much last-minute scrambling appeals," he said.

At issue is the origin of one of the drugs used in the lethal injection procedure, sodium thiopental, a barbiturate that renders the condemned person unconscious so that he or she cannot feel the suffocation and pain induced by the second and third drugs.

Thiopental is in short supply nationwide, and executions in other states have been postponed because of its unavailability.

Landrigan's attorneys have been questioning the state on where it would obtain the drug since Landrigan's execution was scheduled in late September.  The state obtained the drug on Sept. 30, but has refused to say how or where, referring to a state law that protects the identities of executioners and all people having to do with executions.

When the state Supreme Court refused to stay the execution, Landrigan's attorneys took it to federal court.  Silver did not accept the state's argument, and ordered that all information about the drug be turned over immediately to Landrigan's attorneys.

UPDATE:  Early on Tuesday morning, a Ninth Circuit panel upheld the district court's stay via this opinion.  And this CNN article reports that Arizona has now brought this matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.

October 25, 2010 at 09:25 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Once again, here we are in the last few days and hours raising issues that should have been presented earlier. The execution was set in late September and Landrigan's attorneys wait till the end to litigate. Hopefully, the 9th will vacate Silver's order. The SOS petition was denied by the 9th tonite. You would think that these federal judges would get tired of this last minute jockeying during day and night and order some kind of timetable to dispense these cases in a proper way. Wishful thinking on my part.

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 25, 2010 9:39:00 PM

Yet another irresponsible pro-murderer judge on the federal bench. Baze is crystal clear on what showing needs to be made. And the murderer hasn't come close to making that showing. The judge admits that she doesn't know one way or the other--well guess what judge, that means that the murderer hasn't made his showing, and that means the stay is improper.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 25, 2010 10:07:09 PM

Hypothetically, could they have disclosed the name of a reputable foreign source and had the execution go forward? Or would this have been enough for the judge to stay?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 25, 2010 10:45:58 PM

This is new ground they are covering. No state has ever run out of drugs for executions, just physicians to administer it. I would seriously doubt that Arizona or any other state would gamble with a drug that would possibly mask or inflict pain. I believe Arizona checks the inmate for unconsciousness before the other 2 drugs are administered. If the drug didn't work, hypothetically, that state would have a hard time carrying out executions ever again.

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 25, 2010 10:52:50 PM

It is apparent that to conservatives and the law and order people federalism is the power of state authorities to break the law without federal interference.

Posted by: George | Oct 26, 2010 12:02:57 AM

Is it that much to ask that when the state wants to kill someone, that it comply with the law? According to federal law the drug can only be bought from certain DEA approved dealers. Does federal law not apply to the Arizona DOC?

Posted by: dm | Oct 26, 2010 1:14:30 AM

Arizona has previously refused to reveal the source of the drugs, or even the fact that they were not from an FDA source, They only reluctantly offered that latter fact during oral argument last Thursday. This couldn't have been litigated last week, let alone last month. DaveP clearly hasn't read the judge's order, but then his pro-killing rant, poor analytical ability, contempt for considered justice and poor spelling told me as much.

Posted by: jsmith | Oct 26, 2010 1:37:13 AM

The one of the drugs used in the lethal injection procedure, sodium thiopental, a barbiturate that renders the condemned person unconscious so that he or she cannot feel the suffocation. These all are good to know about it.

Posted by: Canada Drugs | Oct 26, 2010 3:39:45 AM

Another absurd ruling from an activist liberal judge. Capital murderers now apparently have a right, a constitutional right no less, to be executed by drugs made only in the USA. All I can say is, wow.

Posted by: justice seeker | Oct 26, 2010 9:05:29 AM

Wikipedia tells me that this judge was in the State AG and Arizona USA offices for 14 years prior to nomination to the bench, including the last five as chief of the criminal division in the Arizona US Attorney's office. But I'm sure the proper explanation of her ruling is that her heart just bleeds for convicted murderers, rather than that she is trying to follow the law.

Also, as the judge apparently pointed out in her order: *If the State wasn't trying so hard to avoid disclosing basic facts within its knowledge, there likely would have been plenty of time to litigate this issue before the execution date*

Finally, can we get a dose of reality about stay litigation? Before we roast the defense lawyers as obstructionists, let's consider the pickle they are in with execution litigation in general. Ripeness doctrine prevents you from filing anything before a date is set. Here, that was less than a month ago. But exhaustion doctrine requires that you go through state processes before you go to federal court -- even though in many places the elected state judges are about as likely to stay an execution as to stab themselves in the eye with a fork. That can take an unpredictable amount of time, and if you don't file all available appeals, ask for rehearing where available, etc., the State will say you defaulted when you go to federal court. Given these considerations (and, of course, the time needed, even on a urgent basis, to actually compose competent pleadings), it often is challenging even to get the litigation into federal court in time for the execution, never mind any idea of intentional delay. Here, you can add in the fact that this type of claim -- arising from the scarcity of the drugs used in the protocols -- has never been litigated before, *and* the fact mentioned above that the delays in the litigation have in fact mostly been due to the state's refusal to disclose basic facts. All in all, while demonizing the defense is a tried-and-true strategy, and will appeal to those with deep ideological pre-commitments on this issue, there really is little meat on that bone here.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 26, 2010 10:07:01 AM

Anon,

Your contention regarding ripeness is bogus. A lethal injection claim is ripe anytime after the conclusion of direct appeal. And you don't speak to my overall point that using sodium thiopental obtained from England does not violate a capital murderer's right to a constitutional execution.

Posted by: justice seeker | Oct 26, 2010 10:43:20 AM

Wonders abound, SCOTUS has overturned the stay. I'm not sure how Arizona will reschedule the execution but for now it may proceed.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 27, 2010 12:13:43 AM

So Arizona refuses to provide details the SCOTUS overturns the stay because the defense doesn't have any details. Does this mean everyone can buy foreign drugs now that has FDA approval somewhere? Conservatives ranted about people importing quality drugs from Canada but now everyone can ignore the potential five year sentence unless the prosecution can prove the drugs are not safe. That appears to be the gist of the ruling.

Posted by: George | Oct 27, 2010 12:34:00 AM

Courtesy of PharmaGossip:

Arizona Execution Drugs Came From Great Britain | Amnesty International USA Blog

Arizona’s Attorney General Terry Goddard has reportedly confirmed that his state’s stash of non-FDA approved sodium thiopental came from Great Britain. The state continues to try to kill Jeffrey Landrigan with this drug, and continues to try to keep details of their supplier a secret, using a law that shields the Arizona’s execution team from public scrutiny. So an as yet unnamed British pharmaceutical company is now a member of Arizona’s execution team. If/when the name of the company is revealed, it will be interesting to see how the shareholders and pensioners with investments in that company feel about being one of Arizona’s executioners. There is also this, from Clive Stafford Smith in the Guardian, who asserts that EU regulations may have made this trafficking in lethal injection drugs from Britain illegal.

As our allies in Europe are dragged into this sordid execution mess, Arizona soldiers on with its attempt to carry out this execution (in defiance of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights). The full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court are likely to weigh in later today.

Posted by: George | Oct 27, 2010 1:28:22 AM

PharmaGossip

Arizona Execution Drugs Came From Great Britain | Amnesty International USA Blog

Arizona’s Attorney General Terry Goddard has reportedly confirmed that his state’s stash of non-FDA approved sodium thiopental came from Great Britain. The state continues to try to kill Jeffrey Landrigan with this drug, and continues to try to keep details of their supplier a secret, using a law that shields the Arizona’s execution team from public scrutiny. So an as yet unnamed British pharmaceutical company is now a member of Arizona’s execution team. If/when the name of the company is revealed, it will be interesting to see how the shareholders and pensioners with investments in that company feel about being one of Arizona’s executioners. There is also this, from Clive Stafford Smith in the Guardian, who asserts that EU regulations may have made this trafficking in lethal injection drugs from Britain illegal.

As our allies in Europe are dragged into this sordid execution mess, Arizona soldiers on with its attempt to carry out this execution (in defiance of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights). The full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court are likely to weigh in later today.

Posted by: George | Oct 27, 2010 1:35:50 AM

I can't think if any more specific ways to leave a good comment, but I think the overall rule should be to treat online posting like a conversation you'd have in person with your readers. It's sometimes easy to cross these lines inadvertently.

Posted by: Nike Air Max | Oct 27, 2010 1:38:00 AM

"I can't think if any more specific ways to leave a good comment, but I think the overall rule should be to treat online posting like a conversation you'd have in person with your readers. It's sometimes easy to cross these lines inadvertently."

Or intentionally, like a SPAM comment.

Posted by: George | Oct 27, 2010 1:59:19 AM

jsmith

I apologize for my spelling of the word tonight. I guess that I have been watching too much Nick at Nite.
Now what were you saying about my analytic ability?
The bottom line of this case was Arizona probably should have been more open with the drug. But, overall at the end of the day, there was no proof that it was going to cause pain and suffering in violation of the 8th amendment. Sorry for my pro-killing rant if it seemed like that. I only care about innocent victims and justice being carried out.

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 27, 2010 6:33:17 AM

jsmith

sorry it is early in the morning. It should be "sure or very likely to cause serious illness or needless suffering." Just to let you know that I read SCOTUS order on the case.

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 27, 2010 6:55:32 AM

you had your pound of flesh, Happy ??

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Posted by: Jordan Retro | Nov 14, 2010 1:38:48 AM

jsmith

sorry it is early in the morning. It should be "sure or very likely to cause serious illness or needless suffering." Just to let you know that I read SCOTUS order on the case.

Posted by: Jordan Retro | Nov 14, 2010 1:39:15 AM

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