A pharmacy in the US state of Oklahoma has agreed not to supply a powerful sedative to a neighbouring state for use in an execution, a court has heard.
Missouri officials had reportedly planned to buy pentobarbital from the Apothecary Shoppe in Tulsa to execute convicted murderer Michael Taylor.
The pharmacy’s move came after Taylor’s lawyer sued to block the sale.
US states are facing a shortage of execution drugs as a growing number of firms have refused to sell them.
Despite the development, revealed in court on Monday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has said prison officials are prepared to go forward with the execution, currently scheduled for 26 February.
‘Severe and inhumane’
- October 2012: In South Dakota, Eric Robert turns purplish-blue; takes 20 minutes before state can declare him dead
- January 2014: Oklahoma death-row inmate Michael Lee Wilson cries out he feels his “whole body burning” within 20 seconds of injection
- January 2014: In Missouri, Herbert Smulls’s execution takes nine minutes; he shows no outward signs of distress
Source: BBC reporting
In Taylor’s case, his lawyers said the state turned to the Apothecary Shoppe, a compounding pharmacist that makes bespoke drugs for individual clients, after the sole US licensed manufacturer of pentobarbital, Akorn Inc, refused to sell it for use in lethal injections.
Akorn agreed to that condition when it bought the exclusive rights to the drug in January 2012 from Danish company Lundbeck.
Taylor was sentenced to death for raping and killing a 15-year-old in 1989. Another man is also on death row for the crime.
The US Supreme Court stayed Taylor’s execution in 2006 at the last minute over concerns that Missouri’s execution method, which at the time used three drugs, violated the US constitution’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
In recent months, Missouri has executed three men, all using pentobarbital instead of the three-drug combination. The state briefly used sedative propofol last year for executions until the European Union threatened to limit the export of the drug to the US if it was used for capital punishment.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court this month against the Apothecary Shoppe, Taylor’s lawyers said US drug regulations barred the pharmacy from supplying the drug for use in the execution, and asked the judge to block the sale.
Among other arguments, they said the pharmacy’s custom-made pentobarbital would cause him “severe, unnecessary, lingering, and ultimately inhumane pain” during the execution.
They argued the unregulated nature of compounding pharmacies in the US yielded “no evidence [the pharmacy] will or even has the capacity to test the pentobarbital… to ensure it will not cause unnecessary pain and suffering.”
In recent days, the Apothecary Shoppe notified Taylor’s lawyers it would not sell pentobarbital to Missouri for the execution – and had not already.
In return, Taylor’s lawyers filed a motion late on Monday to drop their suit.
While Mr Nixon would not confirm the state had enough of the drug on hand to go ahead with Taylor’s execution, he stressed twice the state’s corrections department was prepared in comments to reporters last week.