Obama Justice Department Tells Arizona it Illegally Obtained Sodium Thiopental for Executions

Posted Posted in Arizona, Death Penalty, Sodium Thiopental

Of course, the Obama Department of Justice did this to stop a legal execution at the last minute in Arizona, but Arizona switched drugs.
Hours before the scheduled execution of an Arizona death row inmate, the Department of Justice informed the state that it should not use a controversial drug as part of the execution protocol because the state had illegally obtained the drug from a foreign source.

The last-minute move stunned lawyers for convicted murderer Donald Beaty who had argued for months that Arizona hadn’t been in compliance with federal law regarding the importation of sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs commonly used for lethal injection executions . The drug is no longer manufactured in the U.S.

The Arizona Supreme Court delayed Beaty’s scheduled execution by several hours and Beaty is now set to die at 7:30pm MST.

Arizona had consistently argued that it had properly obtained the drug.

In a filing with the Arizona’s Supreme Court the state’s Attorney General said that it in order to “avoid questions about the legality ” of the drug it had decided to comply with the request from United States Associate Deputy Attorney General Deborah A. Johnston.

In the filing it said it planned to substitute another fast-acting barbiturate pentobarbital for the sodium thiopental. Arizona law allows it to change its protocol without hearings and legislative review required by some other states.

Just another attempt by the anti-death penalty crowd to stop executions. But, some states have changed their drug cocktails avoiding sodium thiopental which is no longer manufactured in the United States,

However despite the Obama DOJ involvement, the Arizona Supreme Court lifted its stay of the execution of Donald Beaty this afternoon, but it is unclear when the eecution will take place.

Arizona switched the sedative in the three-drug “cocktail” it planned to administer to Beaty from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital on Tuesday after federal officials said the state failed to fill out a required form to bring the substitute drug into the country.

Sodium thiopental, which renders the prisoner unconscious, has been at the center of a debate over appropriate execution drugs. Supplies have become scarce in the United States, and efforts to buy stocks overseas have stirred controversy and been turned down flat by some manufacturers.

Beaty, 56, an apartment complex custodian, was convicted of snatching Christy Ann Fornoff from her newspaper route in Tempe, Arizona, in May 1984. He sexually assaulted her, then suffocated her in what was then one of the state’s more sensational criminal cases.

Court records said he kept the body inside his apartment for two days. She was later found wrapped in a sheet behind a dumpster there.

A jury deadlocked in Beaty’s first trial. He was convicted of murder and sexual assault when a psychologist testified that he confessed to the killing in a group therapy session.

In last-ditch appeals, Beaty’s lawyers unsuccessfully maintained his life should be spared because he did not have effective legal representation.

He would be the second inmate executed in Arizona this year, and the 26th since the death penalty was reinstated in there 1992.

Eighteen people have been executed in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Obama Administration Watches as States Scramble for Sodium Thiopental

Posted Posted in California, Death Penalty

The old San Quentin Prison Gas Chamber

Here is another story about the Obama Administration and their involvement in states desperately seeking to acquire sodium thiopental in order to comply with state court execution orders.
The highest levels of the United States government were initially unsure how to respond last year when California and other states began a worldwide scramble for a scarce lethal injection drug, e-mails between federal officials show.

Ten states went abroad to purchase sodium thiopental, an anesthetic and part of the three-drug cocktail frequently used for executions, Drug Enforcement Administration records show. California was one of eight that made their transaction with Dream Pharma Ltd., a one-man London drug wholesaler operating from the back of a driving school.

In November, as states filed paperwork to import the anesthetic, e-mails between officials at the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration, and Customs and Border Protection document the federal agencies fretted [PDF] over how to respond.

“The White House is involved and trying to sort things out,” wrote a DEA official to unknown recipients in a Nov. 11 e-mail.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California obtained the records last week through a Freedom of Information Act request. The organization has filed numerous records requests with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and various federal agencies.

Records released to the ACLU have served as the primary source of information about states’ frantic international search for sodium thiopental as domestic supplies of the drug expired or ran out.

Last week, the DEA released 90 pages of internal correspondence to the ACLU. Fifteen of those pages were completely redacted, along with the names of a majority of officials sending and receiving notes.

What remains of the exchanges casts the federal government as worried about the drugs states were brining home for executions.

Read the entire piece.

As I have written before
, the federal government and anti-death penalty California POLS are obstructing the use of sodium thiopental for use in executions.

The fact is switching to other drugs will only lead to a circular argument method of obstructing enforcement of the death penalty. Then, there will be the physicians who will need to administer the drugs and the ethics involved with that.

So, just go back to the old gas chamber like the one above, which does not require a physician to administer the drugs or you could hang the convicted criminals.

Those methods are good enough and much more humane than these felons deserve anyway.

How long do you think it would take California to change the law with Jerry Brown as Governor and Kamala Harris as California Attorney General?

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, thinks one way to impede stall-inducing litigation would be to reinstitute the gas chamber, but use nontoxic gas to replace oxygen. “It gets rid of this whole notion of a quasi-medical procedure,” he explained, when execution is in reality “a punishment” for horrific crimes.

Of course, first Sacramento would have to pass a law. Then there’d be administrative law reviews. Add another decade.

Don’t look for any California executions anytime soon.

California Says NO Excutions in 2011

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Death Penalty, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Michael Morales, Terri Lynn Winchell

The old San Quentin Prison Gas Chamber

What a shocker and from anti-death penalty Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, too.
California corrections officials have put off until at least next year any attempt to resume executions among the 713 condemned inmates on death row, according to court documents.

The request by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to delay review of newly revised lethal-injection protocols until January at the earliest follows a decision last week by Gov. Jerry Brown to scrap plans to build a new death row facility at San Quentin State Prison.

The steps have stirred speculation among death-penalty opponents that California might be drawn into the national trend away from seeking new executions.

The most recent postponement was due to San Quentin warden Michael Martel’s decision to replace the execution team that had been assembled and trained last year. That team had been ready to carry out executions last September. Corrections officials have declined to say why Martel is assembling a new execution team.

The internal corrections department revisions were disclosed during a meeting of the department’s lawyers last week with U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel. The San Jose judge overseeing a federal case that has halted executions for the last five years expressed frustration with the protracted process and concern that the public doesn’t understand why it has taken so long to correct flaws in the execution procedures.

UC Santa Cruz professor Craig Haney, who opposes capital punishment and has tracked public attitudes on the death penalty for 30 years, said Brown’s decision to scuttle new death row construction to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and the corrections department’s slowing down of its efforts to resume executions are “examples of the increasing signs that the death penalty’s days are numbered in the United States.”

I think it is time for California voters to ask why there has been such a protracted delay in enforcing the law. If there are problems with the lethal injection method, even after spending close to a $ million on a new execution chamber, then why not resume use of the gas chamber. Photo below:

The newly renovated San Quentin Prison Death Chamber

AP Photo
If the California legislature needs to change the capital punishment law to facilitate a return to the gas chamber or hanging, so be it. My best guess is that Jerry brown would veto such legislation. The only recourse would be an initiative campaign by the voters of California – which of course, will take years or an election cycle.

So, don’t count on any executions to be held in California any time within the next few years – at least while Jerry Brown is governor.

.
No justice yet for Terri Lynn Winchell.

An attorney for death row inmate Michael A. Morales, whose February 2006 execution was called off by Fogel over concerns that the former procedures could inflict unconstitutional pain, said the latest delays reflect a more cautious approach in the exercise of capital punishment by Brown’s administration.

“It appears that the state is attempting to be diligent in their obligations under the law, which would be in stark departure from what was the case with Governor [Arnold] Schwarzenegger,” said David Senior, one of Morales’ attorneys.

Terri Lynn Winchell

Obama Administration Tries to Obstruct Lethal Injection Death Penalty

Posted Posted in California, Death Penalty

The old San Quentin Prison Gas Chamber

The Obama Administration’s Department of Justice under Attorney General is doing their best to foil death penalty verdicts.
President Obama well may have begun another undeclared war – this time on states that try to enforce their own death penalty laws – on the dubious grounds that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved drugs intended to kill convicted killers.

On March 15, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized Georgia’s supply of sodium thiopental, the first drug given under the three-drug lethal injection protocol used in most of the country’s 34 death-penalty states. The DEA also asked Kentucky and Tennessee for their sodium thiopental to aid its investigation. Why? The DEA referred me to the Department of Justice, which sent an e-mail declining to comment. News reports indicate that the feds had concerns that the drugs were imported improperly.

In the meantime, defense attorneys for convicted killers have been happy to chat with the press about what they call the illegal purchase of the drug. They never give up. First international death penalty opponents blocked foreign manufacture of lethal injection drugs. Then they put so much pressure on the industry that U.S. manufacturer Hospira stopped making it. As the supply dried up, states scrambled to get remaining doses and turned to a British wholesaler. That created another opening.

A lawsuit filed in a District of Columbia federal court charges that Georgia, California and other states have received shipments of “foreign thiopental” that was “misbranded” – and worse, not FDA approved. Attorney Bradford Berenson, who worked in the George W. Bush Justice Department, told me he’s not morally opposed to the death penalty. The goal of the suit was to force the FDA “to follow the law” and not allow “the importation of unapproved foreign drugs.”

Berenson warned that if thiopental is not administered properly, the middle drug in the protocol could cause excruciating pain. “Where this is clearly headed,” he said, “is changing the lethal injection protocols to no longer rely on this drug” – but instead try another anesthetic, maybe pentobarbital or propofol.

Problem: In response to the thiopental squeeze, Texas switched to pentobarbital. So: The ACLU tried to block the switch by arguing, among other things, that the lethal dose would not be administered by a health care professional. The next hitch: Medical associations bar doctors from participating in executions.

The fact is switching to other drugs will only lead to a circular argument method of obstructing enforcement of the death penalty. Then, there will be the physicians who will need to administer the drugs and the ethics involved with that.

So, just go back to the old gas chamber like the one above, which does not require a physician to administer the drugs or you could hang the convicted criminals.

Those methods are good enough and much more humane than these felons deserve anyway.

How long do you think it would take California to change the law with Jerry Brown as Governor and Kamala Harris as California Attorney General?

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, thinks one way to impede stall-inducing litigation would be to reinstitute the gas chamber, but use nontoxic gas to replace oxygen. “It gets rid of this whole notion of a quasi-medical procedure,” he explained, when execution is in reality “a punishment” for horrific crimes.

Of course, first Sacramento would have to pass a law. Then there’d be administrative law reviews. Add another decade.

Don’t look for any California executions anytime soon.

Judge Jeremy Fogel Tours New San Quentin Lethal Injection Death Chamber

Posted Posted in Death Penalty, Jeremy Fogel, Michael Morales
deathchamber U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel Clears Path for California Executions to Resume   But Will They?

The newly renovated San Quentin Prison Death Chamber

AP Photo

Federal Judge Jeremy today convened a hearing today at San Quentin Prison to inspect the newly renovated lethal injection death chamber.

The federal judge weighing whether California can resume executing condemned prisoners toured San Quentin State Prison’s new lethal injection facility Tuesday in what he called a fact-finding mission to help determine whether the state’s revised procedures meet constitutional standards.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel halted the execution of murderer Michael A. Morales five years ago, citing concerns the execution team was poorly trained, the converted gas chamber too cramped and ill-lit and the state’s method of delivering the three-drug execution cocktail at risk of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.

Whether his concerns have been alleviated by rewriting of the legal protocols guiding the execution process and the physical changes made to the prison venue where death sentences are carried out was not immediately apparent.

The judge asked corrections officials questions about lighting, drug handling, conditions for witnesses and for the inmate’s last hours but gave no indication whether the answers allayed his earlier concerns.

Fogel, leading an entourage of lawyers for the state, Morales and other prisoners facing execution if the practice resumes, went room to room in the clinic-like facility, inspecting the hand-lettered drug vials arrayed on two trays in the infusion room, where the execution drugs are to be mixed and delivered via intravenous tubes threaded through the wall of the adjacent death chamber.

Fogel said he hoped to have a decision about whether executions can proceed “as soon as possible” but set out a schedule for further hearings that will run at least through spring.

Certainly, Judge Fogel is in NO hurry to render a decision which can then be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court. This case has dragged on for five years and nothing yet has been decided, except that California now has the largest Death Row population in the country.

This entire process and Judge Fogel’s conduct of the case is a MOCKERY of the laws of the State of California and the United States. Californians have voted for the restoration of the death penalty and California’s procedures are NO different than those used in other states (which, by the way, have passed Constitutional muster).

Fogel and anti-death penalty advocates are STALLING. Finish the case, Judge and render a decision so your decision can be overturned – and believe me, it will.

No justice yet for Terri Lynn Winchell.

1024415716e6f81febe2625 California Sentences 28 New Prisoners to Death Row While Executing None in 2010

Terri Lynn Winchell

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U.S. Company Will Stop Making Sodium Thiopental – Used in American Lethal Injection Executions

Posted Posted in Death Penalty

The newly renovated San Quentin Prison Death Chamber

Guess the State of California will have to find a foreign supplier or go back to the Gas Chamber for executions.
An anesthetic used in lethal injections will no longer be made by its only U.S. manufacturer because the company does not want it to be used in executions, forcing states that allow the death penalty to look for other suppliers.

Hospira Inc said on Friday that sodium thiopental has been in short supply for about a year because of manufacturing problems.

The company was planning to shift production to its plant in Liscate, Italy, but the Italian parliament will only allow the drug to be made there if Hospira can guarantee that it will not be used in capital punishment.

Italy is a member of the European Union, which has banned the death penalty and criticized the United States for allowing it.

Sodium thiopental is the first of a sequence of three drugs administered in U.S. lethal injections that paralyze breathing and stop the heart. A sedative is legally required in all lethal injections of U.S. death row inmates

“This is not how the drug is intended to be used,” Tareta Adams, a spokeswoman for Hospira, said in a telephone interview. “We’ve decided we’re no longer going to work to bring the drug back.”

Adams said Hospira typically distributes the drug through wholesalers, making it difficult to guarantee that it will not end up in the hands of U.S. correctional authorities.

At least two U.S. states that execute inmates through lethal injection have already tried to import sodium thiopental from a British company, the name of which has not been disclosed. London-based human rights group, Reprieve, sued the British government in November to stop export of the drug.

Texas, one of the United States’ biggest users of the lethal drug combination, is looking for alternative drugs, according to Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Well, the states could always return to either the gas chamber, electric chair, firing squad or hanging – all of which are more painful than lethal injection. But, oh well.

I see a market for another company or a company offshore making the drug. Or, like Oklahoma they could use pentobarbital (Nembutal) which is used for executions in China, in animal euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.

Stay tuned…..