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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Texas AG sues FDA for delaying import of death penalty drug

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday his office has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for delaying the state’s importation of a drug used in capital punishment.

The lawsuit argues the FDA’s claimed legal grounds for refusing the drugs’ entry into the United States are invalid, citing an FDA exemption for law enforcement purposes.

Thiopental sodium, also known as Sodium thiopental, is part of the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections.

In its December newsletter, the Council of State Governments said, while Texas has 317 inmates on death row, it only has enough of a key lethal injection drug to execute two of them, stemming from a nationwide shortage of the drug.

The Attorney General’s Office is asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to declare the FDA’s delay unlawful and compel the agency to make a final decision on the admissibility of the drug, which was detained by the FDA 17 months ago.

“There are only two reasons why the FDA would take 17 months to make a final decision on Texas’ importation of thiopental sodium: gross incompetence or willful obstruction,” said Attorney General Paxton. “The FDA has an obligation to fulfill its responsibilities faithfully and in a timely manner. My office will not allow the FDA to sit on its hands and thereby impair Texas’ responsibility to carry out its law enforcement duties.”

In April 2016, the FDA blocked an appeal to bring in Sodium thiopental from India. Experts in the FDA said there is not a legal use for the drug in the U.S.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice previously used the drug as part of a three-drug cocktail for executions. Since 2012, Texas has used a large dose of a single powerful sedative to carry out executions.

The maker of the drug made it off limits to sell to the government for execution purposes. Texas has been using compounding pharmacies to make the drugs needed for executions..

Source: KXAN, Andy Jechow, January 3, 2017

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