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No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

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Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a second chance.
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailm…

US regulators block Texas, Arizona over import of execution drug

Texas sued in January for the drug's release, saying in its lawsuit that it was importing the sodium thiopental for legal executions.

A US regulatory agency told Texas and Arizona that more than a thousand vials of drugs they ordered for executions in their states from India in 2015, and seized by US Customs, will not be released to them, an official said on Thursday. 

The Food and Drug Administration notified the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Arizona Department of Corrections that their confiscated shipments of sodium thiopental have been refused on the basis that the detained drugs appear to be unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs, FDA press officer Lyndsay Meyer said.

Officials in Arizona were not immediately available for comment. "It has taken almost 2 years for the Food and Drug Administration to reach a decision, which we believe is flawed. TDCJ fully complied with the steps necessary to lawfully import the shipment," the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement. "We are exploring all options to remedy the unjustified seizure," it said. Arizona officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Texas sued in January for the drug's release, saying in its lawsuit that it was importing the sodium thiopental for legal executions. 

Sodium thiopental renders a person unconscious and was a staple of lethal injection mixes but has not been made in the United States for several years. "Texas appears to be trying to carve out an exception for this 1 purpose (using the drug in a lethal injection)," said Megan McCracken, an expert on lethal injection drugs and a professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. 

About 6 years ago, major pharmaceutical companies began imposing bans on sales of their products for use in executions, which left death penalty states scrambling to come up with new mixes and suppliers.

Many have turned to a less powerful, Valium-like sedative called midazolam to render prisoners unconscious. It has been used in troubled executions in Oklahoma and Arizona where inmates who were supposed to be insensate were seen twisting in pain on death chamber gurneys. Nebraska, South Dakota, Ohio, Arizona and Texas tried to import sodium thiopental from India between 2010 and 2015, according to court records and news media reports, but federal regulators blocked the moves. 

Previous attempts to import the drug have also been blocked by federal courts after challenges from death row inmates. The last major case was decided in 2013.

Source: Reuters, April 21, 2017

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