By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Correction said Friday that it’s switching from a three-drug method to execute death row inmates to a single-drug method.
The new protocol now calls for using the sedative pentobarbital only to put an inmate to death, according to the news release issued by spokeswoman Dorinda Carter.
Tennessee’s supply of sodium thiopental, one of three drugs used in lethal injections, was turned over to the federal government in 2011 over questions about how it was imported. The short supply of sodium thiopental in the U.S. has led many states with the death penalty to seek out other drugs.
Arizona, Idaho and Ohio already have carried out executions using pentobarbital, a barbiturate that is most commonly used to euthanize animals and treat seizures.
In addition to the shortage of sodium thiopental, records obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request indicated that Tennessee has also been unable to get pancuronium bromide, a strong muscle relaxant given to the inmate before the final injection of potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
A memo dated February 2012 stated that the pharmaceutical distributor Morris & Dickson informed the state that pancuronium bromide was recalled in May 2010 and will not be reissued.
Carter said in an email to the AP on Friday that the state has no supplies of either sodium thiopental or pancuronium bromide.
The last major revision to the state’s execution protocols came in 2007, when then-Gov. Phil Bredesen issued an executive order to review the policies and procedures and ordered a moratorium on executions.
The last inmate executed by lethal injection in the state was Cecil Johnson, on Dec. 2, 2009, and the Tennessee attorney general’s office has not asked the state Supreme Court to set an execution date since 2010. Tennessee has 83 inmates on death row.