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Execution-Drug Import Papers Raise Questions

Society & Culture  (tags: death penalty, drugs, safety, society, rights, culture, dishonesty, murder )

- 2646 days ago -
The Arizona Department of Corrections told U.S. Customs and the FDA that it was importing the drugs thiopental and pancuronium bromide for use on animals--and is now planning to use the drug to execute prisoners instead.

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Carrie B (306)
Friday March 25, 2011, 12:47 pm
"Three shipments of drugs imported by the Arizona Department of Corrections were represented to U.S. customs and Food and Drug Administration officials as being for use on animals despite being intended for use in inmate executions.

According to documents obtained by The Arizona Republic under the federal Freedom of Information Act, two batches of the anesthetic sodium thiopental and one batch of the paralytic-drug pancuronium bromide were brought into the country from Britain last September and October and were described on federal import paperwork as being for "Animal (Food Producing)."

Thiopental, a painkiller, is used in executions to sedate the condemned convict, while pancuronium bromide renders the convict unable to move. A third drug, potassium chloride, is then injected to stop the heart.

The source of thiopental has been a matter of legal and political controversy in several U.S. states and European countries.

Defense attorneys have raised questions about whether the drugs were legally obtained and whether they were certain to be effective. Thiopental is meant to render an inmate unable to feel suffering during an execution. If the painkiller is ineffective, they attorneys argue, the execution could be cruel and unusual punishment.

Arizona has two executions scheduled during the next two weeks in which the drug is supposed to be used, although legal challenges are in the works.

State Corrections Director Charles Ryan said in a written statement that the department's execution drugs were "procured lawfully" and that the department in dealings with FDA and customs "clearly stated that the purpose for acquiring these chemicals was to carry out an execution."

It was not immediately clear whether the drugs obtained were, in fact, manufactured for animal use, or if the nature of the drugs was misstated in FDA documents.

"If FDA becomes aware of incorrect information in a filing, the agency has many options which could include further investigations and, where appropriate, pursuing civil or criminal sanctions," FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said.

Thiopental is used for veterinary anesthesia but not for animal euthanasia.

Dr. Tom Doherty, a veterinary anesthesiologist in Knoxville, Ky., said, "You can mix it up in any strength you wish. But it wouldn't be used in (human) clinical use if it's labeled for animals. That wouldn't be allowed."

Burgess said federal approval of veterinary drugs takes other factors into account, such as whether the drugs are to be used on animals that are food-producing and calculating effects on the environment given that animals usually urinate and defecate on the ground.

"Animals are not equivalent to small humans. There are great species differences, and it's not always a matter of dose," Burgess said. "So, if a drug is approved for animals, it does not mean that it is safe to use in a human and vice versa."

Thiopental has been virtually unavailable in the U.S. since last summer and has not been manufactured domestically since 2009. That prompted several state governments to look to import it.

At first, the FDA officially said that there were no legal means of importing it. But late last December, after at least five states had obtained and used foreign drugs for executions, the agency reversed its policy and said it would not police drugs used for lethal injection.

Attorneys in several states have sued the FDA over that policy. Last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seized a thiopental supply from Georgia to investigate whether it had been legally imported. This week, attorneys in Arizona and Kentucky asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate supplies in their states.

A recent report from Great Britain indicates that there have been 12 adverse reactions to British-produced thiopental. Lawyers in several states maintain that it may not have worked efficiently in recent executions, claiming that at least three men died with their eyes still partly open, suggesting they were not fully sedated before the other chemicals were administered.

Documents released to The Republic by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Thursday show that the Arizona execution drugs - which were used last October to execute Jeffrey Landrigan and are expected to be used over the next two weeks to execute two more prisoners here - were labeled in import papers as drugs for use on animals.

The information was found on documents called "Form 701 Inquiry," an FDA document that must be filled out by the importer or import broker before the drug can pass through customs. On the documents, information that would identify the importer who filled out the form was redacted. Under federal statutes, filing false federal documents is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

The state Department of Corrections has consistently refused to discuss its execution drugs other than to say they were obtained lawfully. So far, state and federal courts have upheld that position."


Toni C (508)
Friday March 25, 2011, 2:44 pm
Unless Arizona can come up with legal documentation as to where they got the drug thiopental they risk the chance of the same thing happening to them that just happened in Georgia. The DEA came in and confiscated every little drop.

Dotti L (85)
Friday March 25, 2011, 4:06 pm
All executions are cruel and unusual punishment, whether they feel it or not.

Fiona O (565)
Friday March 25, 2011, 6:37 pm
I want to abolish the death penalty. If the states that allow execute try to sneak in the drug, all the more reason.

Animae C (514)
Friday March 25, 2011, 9:56 pm
Execution is the most abominable type of murder possible!!!
It's not a crime of passion or of an insane/unstable mind,
it's calculated & legal!!!


We must never give up our resistance to abolish these heinous laws!
Than.q Carrie

Charlie L (47)
Saturday March 26, 2011, 12:03 am
It seems reprehensible thatgovernments are still executing people in light of the fact that so many wrongfully convicted people have been found to be innocent usually through DNA evidence. As I understand it Texas executed an Innocent man about a year ago. It has been proven he was innocent. I don't think Texas is even denying it. But yet they are still killing people. I guess we shouldn't expect otherwise from George Bush's state.

Saturday March 26, 2011, 5:58 am
Only in Arizona.

William Y (54)
Saturday March 26, 2011, 6:42 am

Stelizan L (258)
Saturday March 26, 2011, 3:21 pm
It's a FAKE import - those in 'power' should pay the price for their dishonesty!!!!! May Karma get to them sooner rather than later!!!!!

Beth M (46)
Saturday March 26, 2011, 3:27 pm
an abomination....x

Lindell Lovelace (1)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 12:55 pm
The way Arizona's going, taking away the drugs will probably just send them back to hanging. Presumably with non-imported rope. Dragging a couple of miles behind a pickup might get a lot of support.

Bonnie Clark (30)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 1:06 pm
It turns my stomach that we all have this blood lust within. Perhaps we are victoms or the killers, but the desire to end life still has to be awake and motivated no matter what side you are on. I just read and went through soem exacutions, Ted Bundy for one. I felt the killer instinct within me when I thought of one of my children and how easy it would be for them to be a victom. I don't want to kill but I think that there is a deep place in all of us if pushed too far that will do just that. So as one who does not care to watch the brutal legal type of murder, nor hear the tales of the cruel heartless savage and painful murder of an innocent victom. What can we do with these people? In all honesty, what would you feel in your gut had your loved one been a victom.? This is tough. My Pschology teacher asked a question once, (not to get off track, but to pose a similar delimma), If two people were killed in an accident, and one person had an intact brain but the body was destroyed, and the other persons brain was destroyed but the body was functional. Say an operation was preformed and the good brain was placed in the healthy body. Who would wake up? Just as puzzeling.

Bill C (353)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 1:10 pm
Many of you are apparently saying is you want FDA drugs in execution.

OK works for me; makes no sense but hey.

To those of you against the death penalty, I applaud your desire; but stand in a room with a woman whose bowels are strewed all over the house, her heart cut out and placed on a shelf; see tracks where the killer dipped hot wheels toy cars in her blood and sat for hours playing nd making blood tire tracks. He did it long enough to smoke an entire pack of cigs and stand the butts in the coagulation of blood around the body

Then walk to the bathroom and find a little girl stabbed well over 130 times in the tub.

Add that to not just a confession but finding the murderers class ring stuck inside with dead moms liver and realize you know these people, spoke with the Mom everyday where she served breakfast as you ordered it from her and watched her get her little girl off to school as the bus stop was close to where mom worked.

Try that and when the person, David Junior Brown (a real execued prisoner from Pinehurst NC) becomes religious in prison and after years of fighting in court says he is the one "done wrong" you may find yourself thinking how you would feel justified pushing the syringe to kill him.

Some people do not have the right to live, David Junior Brown was one of them

donald Baumgartner (6)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 1:46 pm

Robert Barkley (1)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 1:59 pm
Not on my tax dollars they can't.

Past Member (0)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 2:26 pm
Our leaders are some very sick people!

Bonnie Clark (30)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 3:03 pm
Bill my comment is as I sent in the email. I really am wondering if these things took place, also how did you become aware of it? Are you in law enforcement. Are there any psychological, social, psychiatric, or possible mental disorders that we can be aware of in this population, or do they walk, live and work among us and are we just sitting ducks until one day they go pop? This is beyond.

Fred Krohn (34)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 3:36 pm
If they have to deal with capital murderers, they need execution means. We should either provide the needed drugs or switch to some other means... Gas chamber? Old Sparky seat? Noose and gibbet? Or will these idiot anti-capital types volunteer to accept these convicts as their lifetime charges? Once accurate conviction of multiple murder, multiple rape, or similar capital crime is achieved, further persistence of the perpetrator is a waste of resources.

Catherine Turley (192)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 3:52 pm
first of all, there is always a chance that a convicted man is innocent. that's all the reason we need to stop killing prisoners. second, something that is illegal shouldn't become legal because it's convenient. and, since when does any dept. of corrections have use for animal sedatives? are they slaughtering their own cows at the prisons these days. who the heck rubber stamped that shipment. write to eric holder and tell him to investigate:

Lynne Buckley (0)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 4:59 pm
I have no idea what is happening to those who are supposed to be making responsible decisions nowadays. Their lies prove that they know that actions are wrong. What cowards. The Department of Corrections demean themselves with underhand, barbaric actions like these.
I don't believe in the death penalty. I don't trust the police enough to think that every person convicted is guilty. Certainly, in Britain, there would have been a lot of innocent people hanged because of police corruption and the need to get a 'result' in high profile cases.

Hopefully a legislator or someone with a conscience will ensure that the Arizona Department of Corrections remember that they are supposed who act responsibly and not as they have been doing so far.


Ellen G (0)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 6:20 pm
Does this really surprise anyone? I for one have concluded after the past few years nothing will ever surprise me again. The mental illness called Republicans is squeezing the life out of this country and its citizens.

Edgar Zuim (47)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 6:24 pm
What a waste of resources. I do not favor the death penalty. What is the difference between a killer and the State? The difference is that the State legally and with premeditation kills. Often a person kills another in moments of insanity or fits of madness. Death penalty is too cruel and I think it solves nothing.

Ruth R (246)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 11:10 pm
noted. This must be stopped. Where is the petition? Until people are really proven guilty, they must not be killed -- let alone killed in a horrible way. Some places in AZ do not prove who is guilty: they arrest people sometimes with no valid evidence. We need to stop AZ arrests and death penalties, because all they do is lie to the police about people, and some times the police do not know, so they go along with it.

Ruth R (246)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 11:23 pm
AZ is so pretty, and many people would like to live their. They left because of the faulty legal system --some many years ago. It would be so wonderful if AZ would get it's legal system straightened out. I like Toni C.' statement.
"Unless Arizona can come up with legal documentation as to where they got the drug thiopental they risk the chance of the same thing happening to them that just happened in Georgia. The DEA came in and confiscated every little drop."
Until people are really proven guilty, they must not be killed -- let alone killed in a horrible way. Some places in AZ do not prove who is guilty: they arrest people sometimes with no valid evidence. We need to stop AZ arrests and death penalties, because all they do is lie to the police about people, and some times the police do not know, so they go along with it.

I like Arizona. Where are the petitions?
If the legal system were to straighten out, the place would be worth visiting. It is messed up in too many ways. From a law abiding citizen to the best of my ability.

Ruth R (246)
Sunday March 27, 2011, 11:27 pm

Kara C (15)
Monday March 28, 2011, 12:06 am
To all you who oppose the death penalty just think of the thousands of murderers and rapists, people who denied their victims rights and freedoms, now getting free food, shelter, beds, pay TV, internet and everything they want and often living better then you are. All paid for by taxpayer money, billions of dollars that could go to hospitals and schools but instead is going to keeping people who are dangerous and will never contribute positively to society alive and happy.

More executions of the scum that is locked up for life and no policing of the drugs to kill them, this planet needs a good clean up.

Robert O (12)
Monday March 28, 2011, 12:07 pm

Trequl M (170)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 10:05 am
Noted with thanks.

Barbara Erdman (63)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 5:13 pm
thanx Carrie

Alexandra Rodda (180)
Sunday April 3, 2011, 2:49 am
Execution is no doubt preferred in the United States because it is a lot cheaper than life imprisonment. There are far too many prisoners in the USA anyway. Maybe this is what is stopping the USA from abolishing the death penalty as other civilized countries have done.
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