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States to try new ways of executing prisoners. Their latest idea? Opioids.

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The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has been the driving force behind the nation’s opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands of Americans last year in overdoses. Now two states want to use the drug’s powerful properties for a new purpose: to execute prisoners on death row.
As Nevada and Nebraska push for the country’s first fentanyl-assisted executions, doctors and death penalty opponents are fighting those plans. They have warned that such an untested use of fentanyl could lead to painful, botched executions, comparing the use of it and other new drugs proposed for lethal injection to human experimentation.
States are increasingly pressed for ways to carry out the death penalty because of problems obtaining the drugs they long have used, primarily because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply their drugs for executions.
The situation has led states such as Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma to turn to novel drug combinations for executions. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas this s…

Texas halts scheduled July 14 execution pending drug test

Perry Eugene Williams
Perry Eugene Williams
The scheduled July 14 execution of a man convicted in the slaying of a medical student robbed of $40 has been postponed indefinitely.

A Texas prison system spokesman said Wednesday that a state district judge in Houston has withdrawn the execution order for Perry Eugene Williams pending test results for the drugs to be used in his execution.

The case marked the first time a Texas execution has been delayed for that reason, officials said.

Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said while the state has enough drugs to carry out all seven executions scheduled through October, Perry Eugene Williams' execution was delayed because the agency could not get the test results back in time..

Prison officials said the delay was ordered by a Houston court after they alerted it the test results could not be obtained on time.

No further details were given.

Officials said the testing of the dose to be used to execute Williams was agreed to by Texas in June, when U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston dismissed a suit filed by Williams and Thomas Whitaker, another death chamber-bound convict from Houston, who challenged the state's execution process.

Maurie Levin, an attorney representing Williams, said she was puzzled by the state's inability to get the results on time.

"It's a mystery to me how they could not meet the deadline, because no further explanation has been given," she said. "But the bottom line is, this is the problem with the secrecy of the process of executions."

The Texas Attorney General's Office had agreed in a lawsuit filed on Williams' behalf to have the drugs tested before his execution.

Williams is set to die for the 2000 slaying of Baylor College of Medicine student Matthew Carter.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark says the delay doesn't affect the state's next scheduled lethal injection, the Aug. 10 execution of Ramiro Gonzales for the 2001 slaying of an 18-year-old woman in Medina County.

Sources: Associated Press, Houston Chronicle, July 8, 2016

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