California moved a step closer to resuming lethal injections this week but still faces significant hurdles before inmates can be executed, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation unveiled a revised single-drug method of execution, allowing the state to use either pentobarbital or thiopental in a single infusion to put condemned inmates to death. The barbiturates are extremely difficult to obtain, lawyers on both sides of the death penalty debate said, and their lack of availability could eventually doom plans to restart the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has barred the import of thiopental, and the manufacturer of pentobarbital has prohibited the drug from being used in executions. “The state cannot lawfully procure either of those drugs through a reputable channel,” said Ana Zamora of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. The protocol allows for compounding pharmacies to make the drugs, but the state would need to import the necessary ingredients, said Kent Scheidegger of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. “That is a problem.” Several states have had to place holds on executions because of the difficulty of obtaining the needed drugs. California has the largest death row in the nation, with nearly 750 condemned inmates.