The state of Georgia is rushing to proceed with the execution of two men before its supply of pentobarbital, the drug to be used for the executions, runs out on March 1. Georgia’s entire supply of the drug is due to expire on that date and its attorney general is seeking to overturn two stays of execution for the men, says the Guardian.
One of the men, Warren Hill, who has been on death row since 1991, was to be executed by lethal injection on July 23. With less than two hours to spare, the Georgia Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution to determine if a recent change to Georgia’s lethal-injection protocol was in violation of state law. Specifically, the courts stepped in after discovering that Georgia’s corrections department had ordered pentobarbital for use in executions without a doctor’s prescription, in violation of federal laws about the distribution of controlled substances.
Hill’s death warrant goes until February 26. The death warrant for the other man, Andrew Cook — he has been on death row since 1995 — goes until February 28. Both men are convicted murderers.
Hill’s lawyers have been working for more than a decade to halt his execution due to his having intellectual disabilities. His case has brought international condemnation on Georgia and, by extension, to the U.S., the only Western democracy that still allows capital punishment.
Georgia still has 94 men and one woman on death row besides Hill and Cook. A spokeswoman for Georgia’s corrections assures the Guardian that the state will still be able to obtain “sufficient supplies of the drugs necessary to carry out the court ordered lethal injection process.”
States Turning to “DIY Drugs” For Executions
As Ed Pilkington writes, for Georgia to do so may well mean that it will be turning to some dubious sources, including drug manufacturers in India and compounding pharmacies — the latter being operations like the Massachusetts compounding center that was identified as the source of the fungal meningitis outbreak last year. South Dakota executed Eric Robert last October with such “DIY drugs” and Pennsylvania is also planning to execute inmates with such. In fact, Georgia was among a number of U.S. states who were found in 2011 to have purchased lethal injections drugs from Dream Pharma, described as “unlicensed company that operated out of a driving school in west London.”
The European Commission has imposed restrictions on the export of medicines to U.S. corrections departments as has a Danish company, Lundbeck, that makes pentobarbital. Hospira, the one U.S. company that made one of the drugs used in lethal injections, ceased production of it in 2011.
As Maya Foa of the U.K. group Reprieve, says to the Guardian, “medicines should be used to save lives, not end them. The underhand, sordid practices we have seen in states trying to get hold of these drugs exposes their absolute disregard for human dignity.” Georgia’s haste to execute Hill and Cook is an abhorrent violation of human rights and provides yet more evidence (not that it is needed) of why the U.S. must end the death penalty.
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