"Lawyers say Arkansas to use untried execution drug," is the title of Jeannie Nuss' AP report. It's via Huffington Post.
Arkansas plans to put prisoners to death with a drug that apparently hasn't been used in a U.S. execution, and lawyers for condemned inmates warn that it could take longer for someone to die from it than from other lethal injection drugs.
Arkansas Department of Correction spokeswoman Shea Wilson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the state plans to use phenobarbital, along with lorazepam, in lethal injections. None are currently scheduled, but Arkansas recently passed a law that will allow the state to resume executions.
Both phenobarbital and lorazepam are used to relieve anxiety. Phenobarbital, which is a barbiturate or a kind of depressant drug, is also used to control seizures.
In a letter obtained by the AP, federal public defender Jenniffer Horan told Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe that phenobarbital takes effect more slowly than other drugs used to execute prisoners and that it carries a "substantial risk of a lingering and inhumane death."
"No state has ever used Phenobarbital in a lethal injection procedure, and for good reason," wrote Horan, whose office represents a number of Arkansas death row inmates. "Throughout the history of lethal injection, states have preferred ultra-short-acting barbiturates that cause rapid unconsciousness and death. Phenobarbital, however, has a long onset of action."
Horan's office declined to comment beyond the letter to the governor, but in the letter, Horan said phenobarbital has not been approved by the FDA.
No one at the FDA immediately responded to an after-hours phone message seeking comment.
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said he hadn't seen Horan's letter, which asks the governor to review the Department of Correction's decision to use phenobarbital.