Missouri Public Radio KBIA-FM reports, "Inmates' Lawyers Ask Mo. Board Of Pharmacy To Act Before Execution," by Chris McDaniel. There is audio at the link.
Lawyers representing death row inmates have filed a complaint with the Missouri Board of Pharmacy, citing St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon’s investigation from earlier this week.
On Tuesday, we reported that the Department of Corrections has been obtaining its execution drug from an out-of-state compounding pharmacy that isn't licensed to do business in Missouri. Under normal circumstances, the pharmacist could be guilty of a felony.
"The St. Louis Public Radio story makes clear that the Department of Corrections and its chosen pharmacy are violating (Missouri law)," Joseph Luby, an attorney for the inmates wrote in a letter to the board. "We ask that you take immediate steps to prevent this illegal importation of compounded pentobarbital, which not only violates binding law, but which places Mr. Smulls at risk of suffering an excruciatingly painful execution."
Herbert Smulls is set to be executed on Jan. 29.
Before our investigative piece aired, we asked the Missouri Board of Pharmacy if it would be looking into the compounding pharmacy. Members of the board did not respond then and did not respond to new requests Thursday.
The earlier report, linked above, is, "Investigation: Missouri's Execution Drug Source Raises Legal, Ethical Questions," by Chris McDaniel and Véronique LaCapra. It's via St. Louis Public Radio KWMU-FM. In addition to audio, there are documents at the link.
Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning of this must-read:
As we’ve reported in previous months, a shortage of willing drug suppliers led Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to direct the state to adopt a controversial new execution method.
Now the state is using a sedative, pentobarbital, a drug that’s also commonly used by veterinarians to euthanize animals. That was the drug used to execute two inmates in November and December.
The drug isn’t made by a drug manufacturer, but instead by a compounding pharmacy, which mixes the drug based on a specific request.
Compounding pharmacies, like Missouri’s execution drug supplier, aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. These types of pharmacies are supposed to be regulated by the states. The drugs they make have a significantly higher failure rate than FDA-approved drugs (1).
The execution drug’s potency is critical. If the drug is too weak, or even not what it’s supposed to be, it could result in a painful or slow death, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The state has fought hard to keep the identity of the supplier a secret, restricting public oversight, and making it difficult to know if the execution method is both legal and ethical.
The situation led a federal judge to declare that the state was getting its execution drug using a “shadow pharmacy hidden by the hangman’s hood.” (2)
But by piecing together documents from dozens of public records requests, St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon has figured out that this "shadow pharmacy" is located in Oklahoma.
"Lawmakers consider legislative action in response to death penalty controversy," is the MissouriNet post by Mike Lear.
Two lawmakers who carried legislation dealing with the death penalty in 2013 are considering whether recent events would help or hinder such bills this year.
Imperial representative Paul Wieland proposed in 2013 the repeal of the death penalty in Missouri. He thinks a report by St. Louis Public Radio that the Corrections Department is getting its execution drugs from an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy not licensed in Missouri raises questions about how the death penalty is administered.
“I happen to be opposed to the death penalty, however I think any legislator would want to make sure the Department of Corrections is acting according to state statute and within the limits of the power we’ve given them,” Wieland says. “I think it’s more of a good government issue than it is a pro or con death penalty issue.”
St. Louis Senator Joe Keaveny proposes a cost comparison between death sentences and life terms. He also thinks the St. Louis NPR report should stir discussion.
“Not only that, it seems there are fewer and fewer places to obtain the necessary drug regimen or something similar,” says Keaveny, “It’s strictly supply and demand. That’s going to drive the price up.”
Earlier coverage from Missouri begins at the link.