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March 16, 2011

"Drug Shortage Disrupts Lethal-Injection Mix"

The title of this post is the headline of this new ABC News piece discussing both yesterday's new that the DEA has seized Georgia's lethal injection drugs (background here) and today's new that Texas is changing a key drug in its protocol.  Here ae the details:

Prison officials in two states have been forced to take dramatic measures in the past 24 hours because one of the drugs used to carry out executions by lethal injection is no longer manufactured in the United States.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said today that because its supply of sodium thiopenthal has expired, it will change its three-drug protocol.  Effective immediately, pentobarbital will now be substituted for sodium thiopenthal, officials said.

Both drugs are used to induce a coma-like unconsciousness. They are normally followed up in Texas by pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the inmate, and potassium chloride, which induces cardiac arrest.  Texas has executed more death row inmates than any other state.  There are 337 inmates on death row there, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which is opposed to the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Department of Corrections was forced to turn over the state's entire supply of sodium thiopenthal to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration after the agency expressed concern that the state may have improperly imported the drug from a foreign supplier.  Confirming the seizure, a DEA spokesman said the agency acted because of "compliance-related issues" with the importation of the drug. Georgia has no executions scheduled.

Of the 34 states that allow the death penalty, 31 use sodium thiopenthal.... The attorneys general of 13 states wrote a letter Jan. 25 to Attorney General Eric Holder asking for his "assistance" in identifying an approved source of the sodium thiopenthal or making supplies held by the federal government available to the states.

March 16, 2011 at 03:49 PM | Permalink


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I'm not sure if the Department of Corrections in these states are subject to their respective Sunshine laws (or even if sunshine laws exist in Texas and Georgia), but, assuming there are, I suspect we might see an uptick in challenges to the protocol changes that haven't been fully vetted. Wasn't this a significant source of litigation in California a number of years back?

Posted by: cmt | Mar 16, 2011 4:02:21 PM

Yes, but those came with a prior ruling that the lethal injection protocol was unconstitutional. Also, Ohio and Oklahoma managed to change their protocols without any delay.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Mar 16, 2011 5:06:32 PM

The state administrative procedures acts vary widely. In some states, the Department of Corrections is exempt altogether.

In California, rules that apply to only one prison are not subject to the APA. All executions, by statute, are conducted at San Quentin. That should have been dispositive, but the Court of Appeal danced around it, and the administration chose not to seek review in Cal. Supreme.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Mar 16, 2011 8:04:41 PM

Every county sending people to the execution chamber appears to be more of a statewide function that the administrative rules that apply to only one prison.

Posted by: George | Mar 16, 2011 11:15:51 PM

Using technology from the 19th century, prison industries should make this product.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 17, 2011 7:46:52 AM

The lawyer has succeeded at dismantling and eradicating manufacturing from the US. Only a pale, moribund version remains. Next, the lawyer is attacking and plundering drug manufacturing, a rare area of American success. The pipeline of new drugs is just about dry. Next, the supply of 19th Century drugs will dry up as well. Thank the lawyer.

Send in the Stasi storm troopers to confiscate drugs. Prevent justice from reaching the constituency of the Democratic Party and its terror enforcer, the murderer. They should have been met by armed prison guards who had every right to repel them, even by force. The Stasi feel no necessity to show a judge any evidence, nor to get a judge's order. They walk in and seize state property.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 18, 2011 1:40:45 AM

Send in the Stasi storm troopers to confiscate drugs. Prevent justice from reaching the constituency of the Democratic Party and its terror enforcer, the murderer.keep it up.very interesting article .

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Posted by: Big pony | Apr 11, 2011 7:54:50 AM

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