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November 10, 2013

Reviewing the continuing challenges for states seeking to continue with lethal injection

This New York Times piece, headlined "Executions Stall as States Seek Different Drugs," reports on the latest mechanical challenges for those states seeking to keep their machineries of death running despite new difficulties and old litigation surrounding lethal injection drugs and protocols.  Here are excerpts:

Florida ran out of its primary lethal-injection drug last month and relied on a new drug that no state had ever used for an execution.  At Ohio’s next scheduled execution, the state is planning to use a two-drug combination for the first time.  Last month in Texas, Michael Yowell became that state’s first inmate executed using a drug made by a lightly regulated pharmacy that usually produces customized medications for individual patients.

The decision by manufacturers to cut off supplies of drugs, some of which had been widely used in executions for decades, has left many of the nation’s 32 death penalty states scrambling to come up with new drugs and protocols.  Some states have already changed their laws to keep the names of lethal-drug suppliers private as a way to encourage them to provide drugs.

The uncertainty is leading to delays in executions because of legal challenges, raising concerns that condemned inmates are being inadequately anesthetized before being executed and leading the often-macabre process of state-sanctioned executions into a continually shifting legal, bureaucratic and procedural terrain....

“We have seen more changes in lethal injection protocols in the last five years than we have seen in the last three decades,” said Deborah W. Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School and a death penalty expert.  “These states are just scrambling for drugs, and they’re changing their protocols rapidly and carelessly.”

All 32 states with legalized executions use lethal injection as their primary option for executions. Of the more than 250 executions since 2008, all but five were done with lethal injections.

Facing increasing pressure and scrutiny from death penalty opponents, manufacturers of several drugs used in lethal injections — including sodium thiopental and pentobarbital — over the past few years have ceased production of the drugs or required that they not be used in executions.  Looking for alternatives, state prison systems have been more eager to try new drugs, buy drugs from new sources, keep the identities of their drug suppliers secret and even swap drugs among states.

A week before the execution of a convicted murderer, Arturo Diaz, in September, Texas prison officials received two packages of pentobarbital from the Virginia Department of Corrections, at no charge; the state with the country’s second-busiest death chamber acting as ad-hoc pharmacy to the state with the busiest.

Several states have turned to compounding pharmacies, which are largely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and overseen primarily by the states.  They have traditionally made specialized drugs, for instance, turning a medication into a cream or gel if a patient has trouble swallowing pills.

In Missouri, the availability of drugs and litigation have slowed the pace of executions. There have been two since 2009. “We are going to continue to be affected by these pharmaceutical company decisions time and again, unless the death penalty states can find a pharmaceutical product that has some supply stability around it,” said Chris Koster, the attorney general in Missouri, which dropped plans to use the anesthetic propofol after the European Union threatened to limit exports of the drug if it was used in an execution.

The drug shortages and legal wrangling have led some officials to discuss older methods of execution.  In July, Mr. Koster suggested that the state might want to bring back the gas chamber.  Dustin McDaniel, the attorney general in Arkansas, which has struggled with its lethal-injection protocol, told lawmakers the state’s fallback method of execution was the electric chair.  Mr. Koster and Mr. McDaniel said they were not advocating the use of the gas chamber or the electric chair, but were talking about the possible legal alternatives to an increasingly problematic method for states.

“No state has had any success with getting their hands on the cocktail that has heretofore been relied upon,” Mr. McDaniel said. He said that lawyers for the state are trying to navigate the appeals process in death penalty cases while knowing that “if the legal hurdles were magically to go away, we are in no position to carry out an execution in this state.”

November 10, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The States have Medicaid formularies and are big customers. Ban the drugs of all politically correct, pro-criminal, left wing Euro trash pharmaceutical company traitors. Boycott them.

I have solved this problem, the making of these drugs by Prison Industries, under the regulations that govern poisons, not medications. But, I understand the lawyers making policies are real dumbasses, hopeless idiots, running he criminal law into abject failure.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 10, 2013 5:36:04 PM

I agree with Supremacy Clause. Except I would use the rifle to violate the Sixth Commandment and I would make the Governor do the shooting of the inmate, murderer, convicted felon, three time loser, rapist, or whatever you want to call the offender.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Nov 11, 2013 8:11:30 AM

But as a final step before letting the Governor shoot the convicted human, I would have him go through the little test done on the blog here with crooked numbers and letters on a keyboard before posting the comments. I am not sure that Rick Perry could get through it.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Nov 11, 2013 8:13:37 AM

Several cc of 95% ethanol iv will do the job .

Posted by: Just Plain Jim (Just Another Guy) | Nov 11, 2013 6:31:40 PM

Surprise, surprise, the NYTimes gives a bunch of real estate to death penalty opponents in yet another slanted article.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 11, 2013 8:14:59 PM

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