U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on Tuesday blocked the importation of a drug used in executions because the Food and Drug Administration ignored the law in allowing it into the U.S., reports the Associated Press. Leon sided with lawyers for death-row inmates in Tennessee, Arizona and California who want to keep out sodium thiopental, because it is an unapproved drug manufactured overseas. The Obama administration argued it had discretion to allow unapproved drugs into the U.S.
Leon said the FDA’s actions were “contrary to law, arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.” He added, “Put simply, this appears to be nothing more than the FDA, once again, stubbornly clinging to every last ounce of its discretionary authority!” Sodium thiopental is an anesthetic used to put inmates to sleep before other lethal drugs are administered. The drug’s U.S. manufacturer announced last year that it would no longer produce it, which forced corrections officials to delay many executions. Many of the nation’s 34 death penalty states switched to an alternative drug, pentobarbital.