Editorial: In a civilized society, not even the most vicious crimes justify a death sentence

It is soul-bruising to contemplate the torture that 10-year-old Anthony Avalos endured in his Lancaster home for more than a week before dying last year. Whippings with a looped cord and belt. Repeatedly held upside down then dropped on his head. Getting slammed into pieces of furniture and against the floor. Hot sauce poured on his face and mouth.
The road map of the abuse stretched from head to toe on his small malnourished body — bruises, abrasions, scabs and cuts visible on the outside. Traumatic brain injury and soft tissue damage on the inside. All allegedly perpetrated by his mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva.
RELATED | California: Prosecutors seeking death penalty in Anthony Avalos torture case
If ever a set of circumstances called for the death penalty, this would be it. Few were surprised when Los Angeles County prosecutors said Wednesday that if the couple is convicted of the torture-murder, the jury will be asked to recommend a death sentence.
Such ca…

Death penalty states illegally imported drugs for executions despite warnings

States are locked in legal battle with the federal government after regulators intercepted illegally imported anesthetics to be used in lethal injections

Death penalty states are locked in a legal battle with the federal government after regulators intercepted shipments of illegally imported anesthetics that were destined to be used in executions as part of lethal injection protocols.

Documents released by the Arizona department of corrections as a result of a lawsuit led by the Guardian and joined by several Arizona news organizations reveal that the state’s department of corrections (DoC) was clearly warned by federal officials against illegally importing the drugs. Yet the documents in Guardian versus the DoC director Charles Ryan show that days later the state went ahead with importing the drugs regardless.

On 13 July, the US Department of Justice wrote to the DoC and said that the state’s desire to import sodium thiopental – an anesthetic that is not approved for importation in the US – was illegal. The letter said that according to the Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency that regulates medicines, “there is no approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States”.

Despite the crystal clear warning, Arizona went ahead with the shipment, which arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on a British Airways flight on 25 July and was duly blocked by FDA officials.

The existence of the detained shipments was first reported by the Arizona Republic, which is party to the Guardian’s lawsuit.

Dale Baich, a leading authority on death penalty litigation based in Arizona, said he was troubled by the state’s behavior. “Their position is that they need these drugs to carry out executions, but you cannot break the law to enforce the law.”

Arizona is not the only death penalty state that has tried to circumvent an international boycott of US lethal injection drugs by seeking illegally to import anesthetics. BuzzFeed News has revealed that Nebraska and Texas are also engaged in similar legally dubious activities.

A BuzzFeed News investigation this week tracked down the source of the foreign drug shipments to Chris Harris, a man with no pharmaceutical background and whose company, Harris Pharma, operates in a small rented office in Kolkata. The news organization reported that he may have sold execution drugs to as many as five death penalty states in the US.

Source: The Guardian, Ed Pilkington, October 23, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

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