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.