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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Questions Raised About State's Imported Lethal Injection Drugs

Posted By on Wed, Feb 9, 2011 at 2:23 PM

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Newly released documents raise questions about the quality of drugs imported from abroad by state corrections officials to carry out lethal injections, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

The documents, obtained by the ACLU through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state Public Records Act requests, suggest that uncertainties persist about the drugs, which were obtained from a UK broker in response to a shortage of American-produced sodium thiopental, the chemical used to administer the death penalty in California.

Among other things, the new documents show that the foreign broker used by the California Department of Corrections said the sodium thiopental he obtained -- in the form of a freeze-dried powder -- did not come from a facility approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). State corrections officials sent the drugs they received out for testing, according to the records, but the results of those tests have not been disclosed.

"The new data dump reveals that even California's corrections department questions the quality of the illegal lethal injection drugs it purchased from the United Kingdom," Natasha Minsker, death penalty policy director for the Northern California ACLU, said in a statement.

The news came as U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel, who halted executions in California in 2006 out of concern that shoddy practices might violate death-row inmates' constitutional rights, toured the new, $900,000 execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. The Los Angeles Times reported that Fogel said during the tour that the question of the imported drugs was not an issue for him to decide.

Inmates have sued the FDA for failing to inspect and approve the sodium thiopental imported by California, Arizona and Tennessee for executions.

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