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Tennessee execution: Billy Ray Irick tortured to death, expert says in new filing

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Editor's note: Reporter Dave Boucher was one of seven state-required media witnesses at Irick's execution. 
Billy Ray Irick felt searing pain akin to torture before he died in a Tennessee prison in August, but steps taken in carrying out his execution blocked signs of suffering, according to a doctor who reviewed information about the lethal injection.
In new court filings entered late Thursday amidst an ongoing legal challenge of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol, Dr. David Lubarsky said statements from people who witnessed the execution indicated the controversial drug midazolam failed to ensure Irick could not feel pain during his death.
As a result, the death row inmate “experienced the feeling of choking, drowning in his own fluids, suffocating, being buried alive, and the burning sensation caused by the injection of the potassium chloride,” Lubarsky wrote in the filing.
The document also says the state did not follow its own lethal injection protocol, raising questio…

Centene-owned pharmacy won't give Missouri execution drugs

Lethal injections
A Missouri health care company on Tuesday said a pharmacy it recently bought won't provide execution drugs to the state, a pledge that came after media reports that the suburban St. Louis business had been the state's secret source of the drugs for years.

Buzzfeed News reported that Foundation Care, based in Earth City, supplied the state Department of Corrections with pentobarbital for 17 executions since 2014 for $135,000. The media outlet cited two sources with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of strict state laws prohibiting disclosure or publishing of the identity of the supplier.

Centene Corp. purchased Foundation Care in October 2017. Since then, Centene spokeswoman Marcela Manjarrez Hawn said Foundation Care "has never supplied, and will never supply any pharmaceutical product to any state for the purpose of effectuating executions."

The Department of Corrections declined to comment on the report from Buzzfeed News and on Centene's promise never to provide execution drugs.

Phone and email messages that The Associated Press left with Foundation Care, which Buzzfeed News reported has also faced scrutiny from federal regulators, were not immediately returned Tuesday. The Food and Drug Administration in 2013 designated Foundation Care as a "high-risk" pharmacy, and inspectors found examples of lax procedures that they said could put patients at risk.

Republican Sen. Paul Wieland, who has sponsored failed legislation to end the state's death penalty, said Tuesday that he still needs to verify what Buzzfeed News reported. However, he said, it would be "deeply concerning" if the state has worked with "unsavory companies or companies that are flying under the radar of state or federal regulation."

"If the accusations are true, then I think it's something that we need to look into further as a state and make sure that we're dealing with reputable people," Wieland said.

Missouri's last execution was in January 2017. Mark Christeson was put to death for killing a woman and her 2 children in 1998 after he and his cousin broke into the family's rural Vichy home.

Source: Missouri Lawyers Weekly, February 21, 2018


Condemned Man's Lawyer: 'Serious Concerns' on Execution Drug


The attorney for a man facing execution next month says she has "very serious concerns" about Missouri's lethal injection method following a report claiming the state purchased execution drugs from a troubled compounding pharmacy.

Buzzfeed News reported that Foundation Care pharmacy was the supplier of pentobarbital used in the 17 Missouri executions since 2014, even though the Food and Drug Administration deemed it a "high-risk" pharmacy.

Russell Bucklew is scheduled to die March 20 for a 1996 killing. His attorney, Cheryl Pilate, says she's troubled by the Buzzfeed report and is seeking more information before deciding whether to file a new appeal.

The quality of the execution drug is of particular concern because Bucklew suffers from a rare condition that causes weakened and malformed blood vessels and tumors in his head.

Source: Associated Press, February 21, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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