"Death penalty states scramble for lethal injection drugs," is by Ross Levitt and Deborah Feyerick at CNN. Here's the beginning of this must-read:
A federal civil complaint in Texas claims the defendants may have falsified prescriptions, lied to pharmacies and perhaps even broken the law, but they're not drug runners.
They're officials from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, responsible for executing death row inmates.
The complaint, filed in October, is one example of the lengths death-penalty states are willing to go to acquire drugs for lethal injections.
Texas, which declined to comment on the pending case, is among 32 death-penalty states scrambling to find new drug protocols after European-based manufacturers banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions -- among them, Danish-based Lundbeck, which manufactures pentobarbital.
"The states are scrambling to find the drugs," says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. "They want to carry out these executions that they have scheduled, but they don't have the drugs and they're changing and trying new procedures never used before in the history of executions."
States have been forced to try new drug combinations or go to loosely regulated compounding pharmacies that manufacturer variations of the drugs banned by the larger companies. The suit against Texas alleges the state corrections department falsified a prescription for pentobarbital, including the patient name as "James Jones," the warden of the Huntsville Unit "where executions take place," according to court documents. Additionally, the drugs were to be sent to "Huntsville Unit Hospital," which, the documents say, "has not existed since 1983."
The BBC News Magazine reports, "Lethal injection: Secretive US states resort to untested drugs." It's by Aidan Lewis, and datelined Washington.
Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School and death penalty expert, says there is evidence that a substantial number of prison volunteers and people with questionable expertise have been used to carry out executions.
"If you are using drugs that have never been used to kill a human being and are by no means created for that purpose, and those drugs are being used by someone who is ill-trained and doesn't know much about drugs and injections to begin with, then you're creating a particularly high risk process," she says.
"Secretive scramble for lethal injection drugs prompts concern," is by Ehab Zahriyeh at Aljazeera America.
Missouri intends to carry out an execution Wednesday with drugs supplied by a pharmacy the state will not name, highlighting the new lengths prisons are going to in order to buy lethal ingredients.
Advocates opposed to the death penalty have said that new lethal injection methods — being used after pharmaceutical firms refused to sell their products to execution states — may be unethical and unconstitutional and could amount to torture.
As more drugmakers refuse to be part of the execution system, state officials are hiding the trail of their drug purchases — in some cases refusing to divulge the suppliers’ names or making purchases through petty cash and via seemingly defunct hospitals in order to cover the paper trail.
“If you mask executions in a shroud of secrecy, vital oversight is lost,” Maya Foa, death penalty director for Reprieve, told Al Jazeera. “There is a risk that bad drugs could be used — and journalists, lawyers and the public would have no means of knowing what exactly is being injected into the prisoner.”
NPR Weekend Edition broadcast, "Porn Mogul Larry Flynt Wants Man Who Paralyzed Him Spared." The interview was conducted by program host, Rachel Martin.
Larry Flynt is not one to shy away from speaking his mind. As the publisher of the adult magazine Hustler, he's been a polarizing figure. Flynt has been in and out of court for decades, fighting for the right to publish freely. One of those court battles 35 years ago changed his life in a profound way.
LARRY FLYNT: While I was on trial for obscenity in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and I was returning to the courthouse from lunch when the shots rang out and that's about all I remember about it.
MARTIN: Flynt doesn't remember the specifics of that day. After hearing the gunshots, he woke up in the intensive care unit.
FLYNT: well, it was almost a year before they even knew if I was going to live or not. I was hurt really badly.
MARTIN: Larry Flynt did survive, but a bullet damaged his central nervous system and he would never walk again.
Now, decades later, the man who says he pulled the trigger on that day - Joseph Paul Franklin - is on death row, not for the attack on Flynt but for dozens of racially-motivated attacks and murders. This Wednesday, Franklin is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in the State of Missouri.
Now Larry Flynt is defending the man who shot and paralyzed him. We spoke with him by phone from his home in Los Angeles, and Flynt told us that the death penalty should never be an option.
FLYNT: My opinion on the death penalty hasn't changed for decades. And all of a sudden, I'm getting press calls from all over the world; people are interested in knowing my opinion about the death penalty. And it's a very simple one. I just don't think the government should be in the business of killing people. And I think punishment by putting someone in a three-by-six cell is a lot greater than if you stomp up their life in a few seconds with lethal injection. It makes sense.
Earlier coverage of lethal injection issues from Missouri and Texas, at the links. An earlier roundup of lethal injection concerns is also available. You can also jump to Larry Flynt's essay on the matter.
I also want to note three news reports from last week when I was on the road. NPR posted, "Death Penalty Delayed But Not Denied By Drug Problems," by Alan Greenblatt.
Most states have done away with firing squads, gas chambers and the electric chair. Five years ago, the Supreme Court that the three-drug protocol that most states used for executions passed constitutional muster.
But legal challenges to lethal injections have continued to proliferate since then, a part of every capital defense attorney's playbook.
Some of the drugs of choice were manufactured in European countries that are officially opposed to the death penalty. State departments of correction kept attempting to find new suppliers of sedatives and then running into new obstacles.
After sodium pentobarbital became a drug of choice in 2009, for example, there was an uproar in Denmark because the product was made by Lundbeck, a Danish pharmaceutical company. In 2011, the company announced it would no longer ship the drug to American prisons.
There have been other such cases. It's like a reverse boycott, with companies refusing to sell their product to end-users they don't like.
"Ohio Is Turning Capital Punishment Into a Ghastly Lab Experiment," is by Justin Peters at Slate.
Drugging a man to death is a tricky business. Most states use a multi-drug “cocktail” that sedates an inmate before paralyzing him and stopping his heart. If the sedative wears off too quickly, or doesn’t take effect for a while, then the inmate might remain awake and aware for the rest of the process, suffering great pain. For years, though, most states used the same combination of drugs, which meant that there was eventually plenty of data on how those drugs worked and how to avoid the worst possible outcomes.
In recent years, European drug manufacturers have decided to stop selling the standard anesthetics—sodium thiopental and pentobarbital—for use in executions. Since then, states have been scrambling to find viable pharmaceutical alternatives, each of which comes with its own set of questions. How long will the drug last? How long before it takes effect? How much should be administered? How quickly should it be administered? Because there is no body of research that would answer these questions, states are learning the answers as they go along. And the condemned inmates are the guinea pigs in these deadly experiments.
From the U.K. the Indpendent reports, "How the EU is thwarting states from continuing with capital punishment," by David Usborne.
There is an unprecedented and deepening crisis in the execution industry in the United States and opponents don’t know whether to celebrate or cry.
The European Union, almost by accident, is increasingly thwarting efforts by the 32 states with capital punishment on their books to keep the conveyor belt from death row to death chamber running by withholding the drugs traditionally used for lethal injections.
If corrections departments haven’t already run out of those drugs what stocks they do have are passing their use-by dates.