NEWS ALERT: Federal Judge has blocked the execution scheduled this week in Arizona because of… no, not because of a legal argument… because they ran out of the DRUG!! This is a follow up to my blog post from late May when I first heard of the shortage but now it has hit home.
Whether you are for or against the death penalty for convicted killers, the news that came out this week and reported in the Arizona Republic is surprising and interesting. There is apparently a worldwide shortage of the drug “thiopental sodium” which is a drug used in lethal-injection procedures. Some believe that Arizona executions could be jeopardized because of this. This may come as good news to some and bad news to others, but I find it a bit unbelievable that they actually ran out of the drug. I mean, after all, how many people are actually executed in a year? It couldn’t possibly be enough to run out of the drug!
If this is all new to you then you may be surprised to learn that Arizona does have the death penalty. In fact, Arizona has an official execution-procedure manual that was finalized September 2009. Makes you wonder who had the wonderful task of drafting that piece of literature. Hanging and the firing squad is no longer a reality here in Arizona. It executes convicted killers by using a cocktail of three drugs that are injected intravenously. The first is Thiopental which renders the person unconscious and supposedly impervious to the other two drugs. The second, Pancuronium Bromide, paralyzes the defendant so there are no visual signs of twitching or respiratory distress that could occur.
Apparently this is for the sake of the witnesses. The last drug, Potassium Chloride, stops the heart.
Arizona carried out its last execution by lethal injection in May 2007, when it put to death Robert Comer, who murdered a man at an Apache Lake campground in 1987. It took 20 years.
The next possible execution in Arizona is that of Richard Lynn Bible. He was convicted for raping and murdering a 9 year old girl in Flagstaff back in 1988. The Arizona Supreme Court will be discussing his case this week or next. If the Court issues a death warrant he will be scheduled for execution in late June. But, if there is no drug available there will be no execution.
There is only one company in the U.S. that manufactures thiopental sodium, the needed drug, Hospira. The Arizona Republic reported that Dan Rosenberg, a spokesman for Hospira, said that the shortage was due to an unspecified “manufacturing issue.” Hospira expects the drug will be available again sometime between July 1 and September 30.
Believe it or not, Michael Jackson may have a remote connection to the shortage of the drug. An insider told the Arizona Republic that available stores of Thiopental have been further depleted because of a shortage of the drug Propofol, the anesthetic that killed pop star Michael Jackson. I don’t know, perhaps the fallout from the Jackson case is effecting the availability and manufacture of the drug.
Although there is probably a generic version of the needed drug, it cannot be swapped out because Arizona protocol dictates that this particular drug be used. The protocol does not allow a generic to be used. The protocol could be changed but it would take a while and cost the tax payers even more money paying those that would have to address and argue the issue.
Again, whether you are for or against the Death Penalty I think this is interesting and something you do not hear everyday. Putting someone to death through the legal system is extremely expensive and time consuming. From what I understand, it is more expensive for the taxpayers than housing an inmate for life. I do not know the most current statistics; however, with the budget shortfalls all over this state maybe something needs to change.