Nevada Execution Halted on Drugmaker's Lawsuit

12 July, 2018, 12:30 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Death row inmate Scott Dozier appears before Judge Jennifer Togliatti during a hearing about his execution at the Regional Justice Center on Monday Sept. 11 2017 in downtown Las Vegas. Richard

The state had not yet appealed by midday.

The state Supreme Court later overruled that decision.

Dozier, 47, is not making legal challenges to halt his execution, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Life in prison isn't a life".

The order by Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delaying the execution marks the first time a pharmaceutical company has succeeded in halting an execution over legal or ethical concerns.

Experts say it would be the first time the opioid fentanyl was used in a US execution.

Brooke Santina, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Corrections, told CNN that it has been advised not to comment on the lawsuit. State officials could appeal right away to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The pharmaceutical company Alvogen filed a challenge on Wednesday, accusing the state of Nevada of surreptitiously obtaining the sedative Midazolam for executions and saying that it did not want the drug used in executions.

Drug maker Alvogen alleges the state illegitimately obtained one of its execution drugs and says that the drug combination proposed is untested.

The judge ruled that based on that letter, Alvogen had a reasonable chance of winning its lawsuit, and she issued the temporary restraining order against the use of the drug. Gonzalez set a hearing in the case for September 10.

The company points to what it called "botched" executions in other parts of the country where their drug has been used. The first attempt-by a different company in Arkansas-failed previous year.

Death penalty states have been forced to find different cocktails of drugs for executions in the face of opposition from manufacturers to having their medicines used in lethal injections. "But the company did not immediately ask to formally join Alvogen's lawsuit", The Associated Press reported.

The midazolam would be used to sedate Dozier before he is killed using fentanyl, a drug at the forefront of the United States opioid epidemic that was also allegedly obtained illicitly. But the state has refused. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid well known for its role in the opioid epidemic, has "never been used in an execution before".

Jordan T Smith, an assistant Nevada solicitor general, countered at Wednesday's hearing that Nevada did not put up a "smokescreen" or do anything wrong in getting the drugs.

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Todd Bice, an attorney representing Alvogen said the company's lawsuit was not about the constitutionality of the death penalty nor whether Dozier deserved the death penalty - it had exclusively to do with business.

Alvogen said that Nevada law is clear that it is an offence to obtain a controlled drug "by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, subterfuge or alteration".

The sedative is meant to render the inmate unconscious before he is administered the synthetic opioid fentanyl and then paralytic agent cisatracurium. Fentanyl is used to slow the heart rate, sedate and continue to suppress breathing, and finally Cisatracurium to paralyze the inmate before death.

Mr Bice said that Alvogen does not take a position on the death penalty itself but opposes the use of the drug in a way that is fundamentally contrary to the drug's objective - saving and improving patients' lives.

In court papers, Alvogen also cited instances in Alabama, Arizona and Oklahoma in the past few years in which inmates given midazolam were left gasping or snorting, appeared to regain consciousness or took an unusually long time to die. "It's extremely experimental", as Amy Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union puts it.

"Life in prison isn't a life", Dozier told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

There's a limit to how much artwork and physical exercise a person can do in prison, Dozier said in court hearings and letters to the Las Vegas judge who postponed his execution.

He was convicted of second-degree murder in the Arizona slaying of Jasen "Griffin" Greene and sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2005, before he was brought to Nevada to face charges in Miller's death.

Miller's torso was found on April 25, 2002, in a suitcase that had been dumped in a trash bin at the Copper Sands apartment complex in the 8100 block of West Flamingo Road.

A witness said Dozier used a sledgehammer to break Mr Greene's limbs so the corpse would fit in a plastic storage container.

They argued that the untried three-drug combination would be less humane than putting down a pet.

The ACLU has also filed a lawsuit this month seeking records related to the state's execution protocol.

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