On March 1, Georgia’s stock of lethal injection drugs will hit their expiration date. The deadline has state officials scrambling to execute as many death row inmates as they can in the meantime.
Georgia has 93 men and one woman on death row. New legally imposed difficulties in getting the drug pentobarbital mean the state has no obvious means to execute the inmates. A spokeswoman for the corrections department insisted that “it will be able to obtain sufficient supplies of the drugs necessary to carry out the court ordered lethal injection process.”
Sara Totonchi, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, an anti-death-penalty group, said what many who are reading this story are no doubt thinking. “This highlights the nastiness of the process that the AG [attorney general] should be racing to kill prisoners ahead of an expiration date.”
It is unclear whether Georgia can simply replenish its supply of pentobarbital. Legal routes for procuring the drug have been blocked. Many of the 33 states that still practice the death penalty have gone to the black market. Georgia was exposed in 2011 as being among a number of states that bought lethal injection drugs from an unlicensed company that operates out of London. Other institutions have looked to India for supplies.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
Georgia’s difficulties procuring execution drugs is a reflection of the gradual stranglehold that is being put on the US death penalty by authorities and companies around the world refusing to act as accomplices in the death sentence. The European commission, following unilateral action by the UK, has imposed restrictions on the export of medicines to all US corrections departments.
As a result of the European squeeze, Hospira, the only US manufacturer of sodium thiopental, an anaesthetic that was used widely in the triple cocktail of lethal injections, ceased production in 2011. That, in turn, forced states including Georgia to revise their death protocols, shifting to a single injection of pentobarbital.
But now supplies of pentobarbital are also running out. One of the leading manufacturers of the drug, the Danish firm Lundbeck, has introduced tough restrictions on the distribution of the drug to prevent it falling into the hands of US executioners.
Môsieur J. [version 8.0] (CC BY-SA 2.0)