A shortage of one of the three drugs used in most lethal injections has caused disarray as states pursue a desperate and sometimes furtive search that might run afoul of federal drug laws, says the New York Times. As states seek sodium thiopental to allow them to continue executions, inmates’ attorneys have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to block importation of the drug.
Until recently, states got the drug from Hospira Inc. That company stopped making the drug in 2009. States had to find a new source, but importation of sodium thiopental is restricted under federal law. Documents emerging from lawsuits in many states reveal the intense communication among prison systems to help one another obtain sodium thiopental, and what amounts to a legally questionable swap club among prisons to ensure that each has the drug when it is needed for an execution. Wendy Kelley of the Arkansas Department of Correction said she obtained sodium thiopental from a company in England after hearing about it from corrections officers in Georgia. Arkansas gave the drug to Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee free of charge, and obtained the drug from Texas and Tennessee.