Georgia's Shady Death Penalty Drug Deals

June 22, 2011

As George Costanza once said: “This thing is like an onion:  the more layers you peel, the more it stinks!

On June 23, Georgia intends execute Roy Blankenship.  For the first time they plan to use Nembutol, the anesthetic they acquired to replace sodium thiopental in their lethal injection protocols (their supply of sodium thiopental was seized by the DEA).

Lundbeck, the Nembutol’s Danish manufacturer has written a second letter demanding that their drug not be used in state killing, now pointing out that the they “cannot assure the associated safety” of the drug.

You can read both letters here.

In a complaint that has led to a temporary stay of execution for Mr. Blankenship, attorneys correctly point out that the manufacturer of this drug has “explicitly warned” that “this drug is not safe for use in judicial lethal injections.”  The complaint also points out that the state has “contracted with medical execution services personnel who are themselves implicated in serious violations of federal and state drug laws.”

This refers to Dr. Carlo Musso, whose license to practice medicine may be revoked due to his alleged role in obtaining sodium thiopental from a dubious supplier operating out of a driving school in the UK and then selling some of it to other states (Tennessee and Kentucky), all without any authorization to deal in such controlled substances.

According to the complaint, two men in Georgia whose executions were carried out with this suspect batch of sodium thiopental “showed clear signs of continued consciousness following injection of thiopental.”  If they were conscious, the administration of the subsequent drugs would have inflicted “excruciating pain” (the second drug is a paralytic so such pain would not have been evident).

So now Georgia officials have Nembutol, and “literally intend to experiment on Mr. Blankenship to determine the efficacy of this untested and unsafe drug.”

The fundamental incompatibility of the death penalty with our basic values of respect for human life could not be more clear.