Tag Archives: lethal drugs

Death row inmate attorneys won’t interview executioner

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Attorneys for 33 Tennessee death row inmates have withdrawn a request to have the state’s executioner testify at a trial challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection.

In a notice filed after business hours on Friday, attorney Kelley Henry states the executioner’s testimony is no longer needed because of evidence presented by attorneys for the state and “other developments in the case.”

Henry declined to elaborate on what evidence her declaration refers to, saying that would be giving away their trial strategy.

Henry also withdrew a request to visit the execution chamber.

Attorneys for the state had been fighting to block both the testimony and the visit.

Attorneys for the inmates are trying to prove Tennessee’s lethal injection protocols are likely to cause their clients extreme suffering and a lingering death.

TN Supreme Court halts all executions pending lethal injection rulings

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Supreme Court postponed execution dates for four inmates, effectively halting all executions while the courts decide whether current protocols for putting people to death are constitutional.

Tennessee last executed a prisoner in 2009. Since then, legal challenges and problems obtaining lethal injection drugs have stalled new executions.

In 2013 and 2014, the state tried to jump-start the process with a new one-drug lethal injection method and the reinstatement of the electric chair as a backup. Beginning in December 2013, the court set new execution dates for 11 inmates. One inmate died in prison, and the execution dates for the others have been postponed as they approach because of legal challenges to the new methods.

On Friday, the court postponed the last of the scheduled execution dates. It will set new dates after the legal questions are settled.

States across the country have been struggling to find a method of execution that will stand up to legal challenges. And obtaining lethal injection drugs has been getting harder.

As manufacturers have refused to sell drugs to prisons for executions, prison officials across the U.S. have turned to compounding pharmacies, which make drugs specifically for individual clients. But those versions have also become difficult to come by because pharmacists are reluctant to expose themselves to possible harassment.

Last month, the American Pharmacists Association adopted a policy discouraging its members from providing drugs for lethal injections, saying that runs contrary to the role of pharmacists as health care providers.

Death row inmates challenging Tennessee’s lethal injection method recently submitted an affidavit from University of Utah College of Pharmacy professor James H. Ruble that questions whether even a willing compounding pharmacist could provide the pentobarbital that Tennessee and several other states need for executions.

Ruble says in the affidavit that the main ingredient for pentobarbital is unavailable from the six primary commercial sources that compounding pharmacists buy their ingredients from.

Tennessee last year reinstated electrocution as an alternative if lethal injection drugs are unavailable or a court rules the procedure unconstitutional. But that change has brought yet another legal challenge.

Other states are considering their own alternatives. Utah last month reinstated the firing squad as a backup method if it can’t obtain lethal injection drugs. In Oklahoma, lawmakers approved nitrogen gas as a backup execution method. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin supports the death penalty but has not said whether she will sign the bill.

More on TN and the electric chair: Haslam, correction commissioner comments, etc.

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is “ready as needed” to use the electric chair if it can’t get the drugs used for lethal injections, the state’s top prisons official said Friday.

A corrections spokeswoman added later in the day while the state doesn’t have a supply of the drugs, authorities are confident they could acquire some. The chemicals have become scarcer following a European-led boycott of drug sales for executions.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill into law Thursday that allows the state to electrocute current and future death row inmates if it can’t obtain the drugs. It’s the first such law in the country.

“The Legislature felt very strongly we needed to have some sort of backup, in case the drugs for the lethal injection weren’t available,” Haslam told reporters after a Memorial Day ceremony near the state Capitol. (Note: See also the Nashville Scene take on Haslam’s commentary, HERE.)

Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said he is comfortable with the state’s procedures for ensuring the electric chair would work. This particular chair has been used just once, seven years ago.

“We are ready as needed,” Schofield said. “We believe the procedures we have in place to run tests on the equipment will make it work.

“It will work,” he said. “We’re comfortable.”
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TN to use single drug in future executions

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.
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TN, KY Turn Over Lethal Injection Drugs to DEA

From the Associated Press:
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has taken supplies of a key lethal injection drug from Kentucky and Tennessee, effectively preventing any executions in three states while it investigates how the drug was imported during a national shortage.
States have been scrambling over the past year to find a new supplier of sodium thiopental, a fast-acting sedative in a three-drug cocktail used when putting inmates to death, since its primary manufacturer in the United States stopped making the drug.
In March, the DEA took Georgia’s entire supply, putting a hold on executions there following claims from a defense attorney for a death row inmate that the state bought the drug from a fly-by-night outfit in the United Kingdom.
Kentucky officials confirmed Friday that they turned their supply over to the DEA and Tennessee officials said Friday that they relinquished theirs on March 22.
There are currently no scheduled executions in Kentucky because of a court order that has temporarily halted them. In Tennessee, four inmates are scheduled for execution in September and October of this year.
The DEA and state officials have given few details about the investigation except saying there were questions about whether it was imported properly.
Kentucky officials said they were cooperating in an unspecified federal investigation and the state willingly turned over its entire supply — enough for three executions.
“There was no court order and no search warrant,” said Jennifer Brislin, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Justice Cabinet.
Brislin declined to comment further about the case Friday, as did DEA special agents Jim Balcom in Louisville and Chuvalo J. Truesdell in Atlanta.
“I think the DEA recognizes that this was likely illegally obtained,” said Kentucky public defender David Barron, who represents a Kentucky man sentenced to death for killing a sheriff and a deputy.
Tennessee Department of Corrections spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said there is no allegation that Tennessee did anything improper in purchasing the drug.
Carter said the state did not purchase the drug directly from any foreign vendor, but records obtained by The Associated Press show the sales agreement sent to Tennessee for the purchase of the drug noted it would be going through U.S. Customs. Reprieve, a London-based human rights group that opposes capital punishment sued last year to try preventing a British company from exporting a drug for use in Tennessee executions.

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