Fordham Law

Arizona's Jeffrey Landrigan executed despite concerns drugs not FDA-approved: Supreme Court gives OK

Deborah Denno in The New York Daily News, October 27, 2010

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The state of Arizona executed a convicted murderer on Tuesday night despite objections from attorneys that the state would use a non-approved drug from overseas for the lethal injection.

Just hours before Jeffrey Landrigan's death, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to lift a stay issued by a federal judge to halt the execution.

"There is no evidence in the record to suggest that the drug obtained from a foreign source is unsafe," the Supreme Court said

Due to a U.S. shortage, the state turned to a non-FDA approved drug. It was later revealed that the source was the U.K., although the actual company that makes the drug is still unknown.

Experts argue the practice raises concerns about the effectiveness of the drug. It may also cause difficulties for executions in the 35 states that allow them, as those on death row challenge the use of drugs not approved by the feds.

"The impact could be huge," Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University said.

Landrigan, 50, filed a lawsuit, arguing he could suffer great pain if the drug did not work.  Shortage of the drug, anesthetic sodium thiopental, has forced many lethal injections to be delayed.

Landrigan was convicted of the grisly 1989 murder of Chester Dean Dyer, whom he strangled during an armed burglary after escaping from an Oklahoma jail where he had been serving another sentence for second-degree murder.

When asked for his last words, the inmate said, "Well I'd like to say thank you to my family for being here and all my friends," the Arizona Republic reported. He added "and Boomer Sooner," a cheer used by University of Oklahoma fans.