"Tennessee officials stay quiet on search for new lethal injection drugs as executions on hold," is Kristin M. Hall's AP report, datelined Nashville. It's via the Republic.
It's been three years since Tennessee put an inmate to death, and problems with obtaining lethal injection drugs make it unlikely executions will resume anytime soon.
The state'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 a single drug, pentobarbital. However, Tennessee officials are staying tight-lipped about their search for alternative drugs.
The Department of Correction spokeswoman said last week that no decision has been made on revisions to Tennessee's current three-drug method.
"The Department of Correction has been monitoring the steps being taken by other states concerning implementation of lethal injection," department spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said in a response to questions from The Associated Press regarding the search for new drugs.
In addition to the shortage of sodium thiopental, records obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request indicate 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 confirmed last week the state has no supplies of either sodium thiopental or pancuronium bromide.
The FDA drug shortage list indicates that Hospira, which makes pancuronium bromide, says the drug would be available in the first quarter of 2013.
This has essentially stalled any executions in Tennessee. 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.
Earlier coverage of Tennessee lethal injection issues begins at the link.