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May 22, 2013

Reviewing the new challenge facing states seeking to operate machineries of death

This notable new ProPublica story, headlined "A Prolonged Stay: The Reasons Behind the Slow Pace of Executions," reports on the execution drug procurement difficulties now facing many states seeking to carry out executions. Here are highlights from this lengthy and effective new piece of reporting:

States that impose the death penalty have been facing a crisis in recent years: They are short on the drugs used in executions.

In California, which has the country's largest death row population, the chief justice of the state supreme court has said there are unlikely to be any executions for three years, in part due to the shortage of appropriate lethal drugs.  As a result, state prosecutors are calling for a return of the gas chamber.

Ohio, which is second only to Texas in the number of executions carried out since 2010, said it will run out of the drug it uses in executions, pentobarbital, on Sept. 30.  The state has two men scheduled for execution in November, and eight more set to be killed after that.  Every state's supply of pentotbarbital, which has been the principal execution drug, expires at the end of November.

The shortage has forced death penalty states to scramble on two fronts: They are hunting for new suppliers or different drugs to use, and enacting changes to public records laws to keep the names of suppliers and manufacturers of those alternative drugs secret.

The lack of lethal drugs, and the fight over keeping new ones secret, are partly the result of a remarkably effective campaign by opponents of the death penalty, who have, in effect, taken their efforts from the court room to the boardroom.

Each time a state has found a new source for a drug to use in executions, Reprieve, an anti-death penalty organization based in London, in collaboration with death penalty lawyers in the United States, has used freedom of information laws, the local news media and the powers of persuasion to compel the drug's manufacturer to cut off the supply.

"Who's easier to persuade? The Supreme Court or a corporation that has financial interests?" said Clive Stafford Smith, a British-American, who was a death penalty lawyer in the South for many years before founding Reprieve.  "You can make it not worth their while to allow their drugs in executions."...

Death penalty states are now taking measures to keep anti-death penalty activists, and journalists, from learning the identity of suppliers.  A Georgia law enacted in March provides that any information about a "person or entity that manufactures, supplies, compounds, or prescribes the drugs, medical supplies or medical equipment" used in an execution shall be considered a "confidential state secret."  Already this year, at least three other states — Arkansas, South Dakota and Tennessee — have amended their public records laws to exempt the names of suppliers from disclosure....

In Colorado, a man who killed three teenagers and their boss in a pizza restaurant in 1993 is set to be executed in August.  But the state does not have the proper drugs, causing the director of prisons to send an urgent plea to the state's compounding pharmacies.  At "compounding pharmacies," pharmacists mix, or compound, the ingredients for drugs on site.

Last October, South Dakota became the first state to use a compound drug in an execution, and it did so twice.  Lawyers for one of the men to be executed, Robert Moeller, who had kidnapped, raped and murdered a 9-year-old girl, filed a lawsuit to obtain information about the supplying pharmacy.  The state resisted, and a federal judge sided with the state.

South Dakota was among the states to recently pass a law exempting the names of suppliers of lethal injection drugs from its public records law.  The change was necessary, said South Dakota State Sen. Jean Hunhoff, "because there's been harassment that has occurred against non-protected manufacturers and pharmacists, thereby causing difficulty for the state in obtaining the necessary chemicals for the lethal injection."  South Dakota's law passed in the state senate without opposition, and the house by a lopsided 60-8.

May 22, 2013 at 11:17 PM | Permalink


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Sixth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill.
I did some research and cannot find some exception which says that the people collectively on behalf of The Great State of Texas can kill. There is no Southern: Y'sll Can" exception.

So, all of you people who live in states that kill humans are going to have to meet your maker someday at the Holy Gates or the Pearly Gates. You probably wont get a pass to Heaven just because you were not on the jury tht did the killing decision or you were not the judge. If you beldieve in God and all the luggage which goes with the Ten Commandments then think hard about the consequences of going along with the killing of humans in your name.

Posted by: liberty1st | May 23, 2013 12:38:15 AM

Well, isn't it precious . . . . a bunch of people want to shut down the "machinery of death." Must be Democrats who don't like democracy.

Posted by: federalist | May 23, 2013 1:22:17 AM

Memo to Prison Industries, from National Library of Medicine.


How to cook pentobarbital.

Because this is a poison for the purpose of killing people, not a drug for the treatment of a disease, it is not covered by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. If the FDA shows up, throw them out.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 23, 2013 3:23:10 AM

Liberty: Do you oppose abortion? After how many weeks of gestation?

Do you understand LWOP is an absolutely immune license to kill,, and that prison murders far outnumber executions, even after having dropped by 90%? Kill in prison, lose your cafeteria privilege. Thanks to abolitionists like you. You have innocent blood on your hands, all you abolitionists.

Why does the abolitionist love the murderous, homicidal maniac, completely ignore the murder victim? They are all rent seeking, government dependent left wingers, arguing in bad faith, on behalf of their economic self interest. The criminal generates massive government make work jobs. The victim generates nothing, and may rot in the ground.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 23, 2013 3:30:46 AM

The original translation was "thou shalt not murder" not "thou shalt not kill". I'm fairly certain a legal execution does not quality as murder, if it did imprisonment would qualify as kidnapping and we'd have to open up the prisons.

It's all irrelevant anyways, since the Bible has no legal significance.

Posted by: MikeinCT | May 23, 2013 7:52:40 AM


Posted by: Joe | May 23, 2013 9:23:28 AM

Lethal injection originated as a more "humane" form of execution. The opponents of the death penatly, unable to prevail in court or in most legislatures, have decided that this form of execution allows them to replace democratic decision making with corporate decision making. The bottom line is that states (especially those states in which the capital murder statute leaves it to the executive branch to decide the method of execution) will now have to go back to the next most-humane method since lethal injection will soon be off the table due to the decisions of these corporations.

Posted by: tmm | May 23, 2013 9:48:54 AM

In the long run, I find it hard to believe that some source will not be found to supply the drugs to deal with the current bottleneck. The alternative is assuming that we will have loads of arm merchants, firms that supply any number of deadly devices as well as loads of substances used for various things that are dangerous in various ways, but somehow lethal injection drugs are uniquely unobtainable.

Various people use "corporate decision making" to interfere with democracy in some fashion as we see in the economic field all the time. The attempt here in a small way to use corporations to hinder the death penalty is pretty minor next to all of that. I'm sure though we are evenly concerned about democratic decision making across the board.

Anyway, doubt it will be 'off the table' because of this.

Posted by: Joe | May 23, 2013 10:24:21 AM

// In Colorado, a man who killed three teenagers and their boss in a pizza restaurant in 1993 is set to be executed in August. But the state does not have the proper drugs, causing the director of prisons to send an urgent plea to the state's compounding pharmacies. //

No worries, mate:
Outgoing progressive Gov. overturned the sentence by executive order a la Obama:

If Congress refuses to act, I’ve said that I’ll continue to do everything in my power to act without them.” -- 3/6/12
press conf.

Posted by: Adamakis | May 23, 2013 12:09:14 PM

Well if the federal govt had any brains. Of course we know they don't. They would simply order one of the any number of hidden off the books biochem weapons labs to just make the shit up and dispense it to the states.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 23, 2013 3:41:44 PM

It is all irrelevant. Until you time comes for that inteview at the Pearly Gates and you got strike one against you for being a citizen of the Great State of Texas. And if you chimned in here on the blog in favor of killing then ya got strike two. Me? I moved from a death penalty killing state to a state that does not kill in my name. I got other stuff to explain when my time comes.

Posted by: liberty1st | May 23, 2013 9:55:27 PM

I'm sure you do liberty1st!

but where i come from if you try and hurt or kill ME! if you screw it up and get caught. I have the RIGHT to do the same to you!

You can get that right from the bible! you know that old saying "Treat others as you would be treated!"

not rocket science to translate that to "If you hurt or kill people don't be suprised if they try and hurt or kill YOU"

Posted by: rodsmith | May 23, 2013 11:15:21 PM

Lib: Do you have the courage to admit you are a government dependent worker? If you do not, God will get you for being a liar. If you do, God will get you for promoting your economic self interest by protecting the criminal, a source of tremendous government make work jobs. Rent seeking is a form of armed robbery, and God does not cotton to that type of slick thievin'. He's going to get you, as he will all abolitionists, all VFL's and all their male running dogs.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 23, 2013 11:25:45 PM

liberty 1st --

When my time comes, and God asks why I support the DP, my response will be, "Do you have an auditorium here? Let's do a debate."

At least he gives his real name.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 24, 2013 5:47:28 PM

Better watch out there bill. Actualy he's got a shit load of alias!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 25, 2013 5:17:06 PM

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