The Arizona Department of Corrections said in April it was ready to resume the lethal injections and spent $ 1.5 million on the medication needed to carry them out.
Authorities now admit they were mistaken about the duration of the deadly cocktail – and want to speed up the execution of two prisoners.
In a court case filed on Tuesday, the Arizona attorney general’s office said the drug only has a 45-day shelf life when compounded, half of the 90 days originally planned.
Forty-five days reduces the state’s time to file an execution warrant, test drugs and put a prisoner to death.
The state must have the drug prepared shortly after the state has formally filed an execution warrant for a prisoner, in accordance with testing and disclosure requirements. The GA solution: speed up the schedule for the two men’s hearings so that the executions can proceed as planned within the allotted time.
Frank Atwood’s scheduled execution date is September 28. Clarence Dixon’s performance date is slated for October 19. Both men were convicted of murder.
“The State respectfully requests this Court to modify the schedule of briefings currently in place so that the scheduled execution date of September 28 falls within 45 days of the original date of non-use of the compound pentobarbital.” , wrote Assistant Attorney General Lacey Stover Gard of two motions on June 22.
The move comes after attorneys for Atwood repeatedly called on the state on claims that the lethal injection drug could last up to 90 days, citing medical journals and scientific experts who said the drug was losing of its effectiveness after 45 days.
“They totally agreed with our argument,” lawyer Joe Perkovich said. “They totally surrendered to everything we said.”
Attorney General Mark Brnovich is trying to save face by pushing executions earlier, Perkovich said.
âHe’s trying to shirk responsibility for any fault,â Perkovich said. “He spent a million and a half dollars on a drug he can’t legally use in Arizona.”
In addition to the purchase price of the drug, the state spent an additional $ 400,000 in pharmaceutical consultation fees, Perkovich said.
Brnovich’s office did not respond to questions about the drug from The Arizona Republic on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the office said the office had filed petitions to ensure that executions were carried out according to the law.
“We must always ensure that justice is served for victims, their families and our communities,” spokeswoman Katie Conner said in a statement.
Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reintegration officials also did not answer questions about the lethal injection drug.
Sloppy drug, deadly gas purchases
The question raises further questions about the state’s willingness to carry out executions. A report released on June 4 by The Republic found that the state had purchased the wrong gas chamber chemicals in preparation for resuming executions.
Arizona voters abolished the gas chamber almost 30 years ago. But state law gives 17 inmates convicted of offenses before 1992, including Atwood, the choice to die by gas or lethal injection.
The potency and shelf life of the drug is important due to what happened in a botched lethal injection in 2014, after which executions were suspended in Arizona.
Joseph Wood sniffed and swallowed air for nearly two hours as his attorneys tried to reach an Arizona judge and stop the execution. The manner in which his death led to legal action, forced the state to adopt a new lethal injection cocktail, and to begin a lengthy process to find an approved drug.
The state has been caught on two occasions attempting to illegally import execution drugs.
In 2010, drugs destined for Arizona and other states were confiscated by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration; the federal courts ruled that the drugs could not be brought legally into the country. In 2015, the Arizona Department of Corrections paid nearly $ 27,000 to import an illegal execution drug that was seized by federal authorities.
In its motion on Tuesday, the state blamed the confusion over the shelf life of the lethal injection drug on a “revised advice” from an anonymous pharmacist advising the state on pentobarbital for use in the execution of Atwood.
The pharmacist first told the state that the drug has a shelf life of 90 days.
“The pharmacist, however, has now revised this opinion and informed (the Department of Corrections) that, until certain specialized testing of a batch of samples is performed, the pentobarbital that is compounded for execution of Atwood will have an initial non-use date of 45 days, “wrote attorney Stover Gard.
Testing could extend the expiration date of doses subsequently made up of the same batch of pentobarbital, but she warned the court: “These tests have not yet started and will not be completed in time to accommodate the information schedule. “
Under a civil settlement after Wood’s death, the Department of Corrections is prohibited from using chemicals whose shelf life expires before the date of execution, Stover Gard said in his motion.
Brnovich asks for execution warrants
Brnovich, who launched his campaign for the US Senate this month, announced in April that he intended to seek execution warrants for Atwood and Dixon.
He said he would ask the Arizona Supreme Court to “establish a firm briefing schedule” that would allow the state to comply with drug testing and disclosure obligations.
“This will ensure strict adherence to the current lethal injection protocol and related regulations,” Brnovich said in an April 6 statement.
Atwood, 65, was convicted in Pima County in 1987 for the murder of an 8-year-old girl, Vicki Lynne Hoskinson. According to court records, Atwood was driving through a neighborhood looking for a child in 1984.
Atwood had previously been convicted in California for kidnapping a young boy.
Atwood spotted Hoskinson, hit his bike with his car and grabbed her. He murdered her in the desert, according to court records.
Dixon, 65, was convicted in 2008 for the 1978 murder of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old from Arizona State University who was found dead in her apartment with a belt around her neck.
Several lawyers have argued since the 1970s that Dixon had serious mental health issues.
Two days before Dixon murdered Bowdoin, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled he was “not insane” of an attack on another woman. Sandra Day O’Connor was the judge. Dixon was released without supervision from a public hospital.
Lawyer: AG’s request “breathtaking”
Attorney General wants court to ensure that once it seeks execution warrants for Atwood and Dixon, the death penalty will be carried out within 45 days of the lethal injection drug’s shelf life .
“As stated in previous oral argument, the pharmacist composed of the ADRCR will prepare the pentobarbital shortly after the date on which the state’s request is filed to comply with the testing and disclosure requirements of the protocol,” the report said. state request.
Rather than seeking to delay the execution, Brnovich’s office asked the court to keep Atwood’s original execution date of September 28 and reduce the deadline for filing lawsuits from 90 to 45 days.
A nearly identical motion seeks the same narrow window for Dixon, whose execution date is set for October 19.
Perkovich, whose non-profit law firm represents defendants in death penalty cases across the country, called Brnovich’s request “breathtaking.”
He said the 45-day window limits the usual period for filing petitions. Not only will lawyers lose a chance to respond, but the Arizona Supreme Court will not have time to consider the arguments, he said.
The demand is “unprecedented and a radical change” from the way execution requests have been handled since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the 1970s, Perkovich said.
“The most serious thing a court does is put someone to death,” he said. “It asks the Supreme Court to be a buffer for the attorney general.”
Robert Anglen investigates consumer issues for The Republic. If you are a victim of fraud, waste, or abuse, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8694. Follow him on twitter @robertanglen
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