Death Penalty

Defense lawyers may obtain lethal drugs on their own for clients, Arizona execution protocol says


Gavel and syringe.

Defense lawyers who object to Arizona’s execution drugs may obtain drugs on their own to execute their clients, according to an execution protocol announced last month.

That kind of “do-it-yourself execution” appears to be unique in the United States, the Arizona Republic reports. The new protocol, which authorizes the use of pentobarbital or thiopental, was written as a result of court orders in two cases, the Arizona Republic reported last month.

Pentobarbital is a controlled substance which drug companies have refused to sell to prisons for execution purposes, and thiopental cannot legally be imported and is no longer being sold by FDA-approved drug companies. In 2015, the FDA seized a shipment of thiopental which Arizona had attempted to have flown in from India for execution purposes.

The new protocol proposes that if defense attorneys have objections to the execution drugs the state intends to use on their clients, they can provide substitute chemicals, the Arizona Republic reports. Any drugs picked up by defense lawyers would still have to be approved by Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

Assistant federal public defender Dale Baich sees some problems with the idea of lawyers shopping for drugs for their clients’ deaths. “This is a bizarre notion that calls for actions that are both illegal and impossible,” he told the Arizona Republic.

“A prisoner or prisoner’s lawyer cannot legally obtain these drugs or legally transfer them to the Department. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, we cannot imagine a way to obtain the drug. Those that obtain controlled substances illegally, go to prison.”

Hat tip to @JustADCohen.


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