CNN posts, "States urge feds to help import lethal injection drugs." It's by Bill Mears.
A nationwide shortage of a commonly used imported drug used in capital punishment has prompted 15 states on Monday to urge the U.S. Justice Department to intervene.
Led by Oklahoma officials, the move comes as the 33 states with the death penalty -- all of whom use lethal injection as the primary execution method -- struggle to preserve existing stock or search for legally acceptable chemical alternatives.
A federal judge in March had blocked the importation of thiopental into states like Arizona, South Carolina, and Georgia saying it was a "misbranded drug and an unapproved drug." Judge Richard Leon in Washington ordered state corrections departments to return suspected foreign-made thiopental to the Food and Drug Administration.
The states called that a "flawed decision" and now want the FDA to appeal that judge's decision, saying upcoming executions are being undermined. Attorneys General Scott Pruitt in Oklahoma and Marty Jackley in South Dakota are leading the legal effort.
"At the very core of the states' police powers are their powers to enact laws to protect their citizens against violent crimes. As state attorneys general, we are tasked with enforcing those laws, including in instances where capital punishment is authorized for the most heinous of crimes," according to attorneys general from the 15 states.
States argued the federal agency had routinely released the imported drug for executions, a practice suspended after the judge's ruling.
"If the (court) decision is not overturned, we as state attorneys general will be forced to take actions to ensure execution by lethal injection remains a viable option."
This comes after Texas officials disclosed Monday they only have enough drugs on hand for 23 more executions. The next scheduled execution in the U.S. is Bobby Hines in Texas on June 6.
Missouri earlier this month announced new protocols, and will use an entirely new drug. Propofol is a surgical anesthetic that in large doses can be administered fatally, but has never been used in the U.S. to put prisoners to death.
"Pruitt, other attorneys general seek Justice Department help as supply of execution drug runs low," is the Tulsa World report written by Cary Aspinwall. Pruitt's letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is available in Adobe .pdf format.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and attorneys general of 14 other states have asked the Justice Department to appeal a court decision that blocks supplies of a key lethal injection drug.
Pruitt and the other state attorneys general are asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to appeal the district court ruling known as the "Beaty decision," which blocks U.S. states from using foreign-manufactured sodium thiopental in executions.
The state attorneys general who signed the letter argue the Beaty decision violates federal policy and impairs states' ability to carry out capital punishment.
In March, a federal judge ruled in favor of death-row inmates in Tennessee, Arizona and California who argued that foreign-manufactured sodium thiopental should be banned because it has not been FDA-approved for importation.
Sodium thiopental is used by several states as the first part of a lethal injection cocktail; it renders prisoners unconscious. Foreign suppliers became the only source to obtain sodium thiopental after the sole domestic manufacturer announced in January 2011 it no longer would produce it.
Oklahoma switched to pentobarbital in 2010 after sodium thiopental supplies ran scarce, but now pentobarbital is also in short supply nationally.
In the letter, Pruitt and the other attorneys general argue the Beaty decision reversed what was the routine Food and Drug Administration practice to release imported thiopental to state departments of correction for use in executions, undermining the ability of states to properly enforce capital punishment laws.
"At the very core of the states' police powers are their powers to enact laws to protect their citizens against violent crimes. As state attorneys general, we are tasked with enforcing those laws, including in instances where capital punishment is authorized for the most heinous of crimes," the letter states.
"SD, other states seek review of execution drug," is the AP report from South Dakota's Aberdeen News.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has joined colleagues in 14 other states in asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review federal policy on a drug used in carrying out death sentences.
The letter sent by the attorneys general says recent federal policy could impair the ability of the states to use lethal injection.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month asked South Dakota to turn over its supply of sodium thiopental, a drug used to put inmates to sleep before other lethal drugs are administered.
Jackley told the agency South Dakota has no plans to turn over the drug.