In US, drug crunch throws executions into disarray

Deborah Denno in The Times of India, October 25, 2010

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WASHINGTON: In the midst of a drug shortage that has already forced postponement of lethal injection executions across the United States, some states say they now have the drug in hand but are refusing to disclose its origin.

The unprecedented situation has been compounded by an inmate scheduled to die on Tuesday but who is suing to stop his execution, arguing that the drug which the state of Arizona intends to use may be counterfeit or unsafe.

Only one company in the US, Hospira, manufactures the drug, sodium thiopental. But it is out of stock and will not be able to resume production until the first quarter of 2011, and Hospira`s most recent batch is nearing its 2011 expiration date.

Some states like Texas and Ohio have enough thiopental to carry on with their execution schedules, but others like Kentucky have been forced to put capital punishment on hold.

"We are so used to having executions, it makes legislators nervous" when they are halted, Deborah Denno, a criminal law professor at Fordham University, said. "The more you delay, the more people realize that the death penalty doesn't serve the purpose it's supposed to serve."