St. Louis Public Radio Exposes Truth About Legal Injection Drugs

By Desiree Bowie 09/08/14

The state of Missouri has courted controversy for using Penobarbitol, a drug commonly used to euthanize animals.

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According to a St. Louis Public Radio broadcast last Wednesday, Missouri officials have been misleading about the drugs and methods used in recent executions.

St Louis Public Radio has recently reported that a shortage of willing drug suppliers has led Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to direct the state to adopt a controversial new execution method. The state now uses a sedative, Penobarbitol, a drug that’s also commonly used by veterinarians to euthanize animals. Penobarbitol was used in the state’s most recent executions in November and December of 2013.

Penobarbitol is manufactured at a compounding pharmacy, which mixes the drug based on a specific request. Compounding pharmacies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but instead are regulated by the state. Drugs created in compounding pharmacies have a higher rate of fatality than their FDA approved counterparts.

The potency of executions drugs are critical. If the drug is too weak, it could result in a slow and painful death for the inmate, which is a direct violation of the U.S. constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, as written in the eighth amendment.

Unlawful executions have been in the headlines recently as the use of Midazolam is under scrutiny nationwide after inmates in botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arizona were given the drug and suffered longer than usual during the execution process.
"This goes beyond hiding things. This is an issue of them deliberately misleading the (inmates), the lawyers, the courts and the general public," said Kathryn Parish, a lawyer representing Missouri inmate Earl Ringo, who is scheduled to be put to death on Sept. 10.
 Parish said she and other lawyers for Missouri death row inmates would be filing court action based on the public radio report.

George Lombardi, the director of the Department of Corrections, is responsible for selecting the pharmacy as well as making its identity a secret. Calls to his office were not returned. But in an email, a spokesperson said, "The Department of Corrections complies with all laws relating to the acquisition of drugs used in executions."

Arguments are set to begin on Sept. 9 in a long-running lawsuit filed by more than a dozen Missouri death row inmates against the state over its lethal injection protocols.

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Desiree Bowie is a writer and movie lover from Los Angeles, California. Follow her on Twitter @dangerbowie