3 companies object to drugs' use in execution

Lester Mason
July 11, 2018

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez scheduled a same-day hearing Wednesday morning to decide if Scott Raymond Dozier's execution can take place 11 hours later in the northeastern Nevada town of Ely.

The order is the first time a drug company has successfully sued to halt an execution in the USA involving one of its drugs.

In its complaint, the drug company demands the immediate return of the state's supply of midazolam, arguing that the sedative was purchased "by subterfuge with the undisclosed and improper intent to use it for the upcoming execution in complete disregard of plaintiff's rights".

Death row inmate Scott Dozier appears before District Judge Jennifer Togliatti during a hearing about his execution at the Regional Justice Center on September 11, 2017, in downtown Las Vegas.

The Nevada department of corrections said it had no comment on the lawsuit. The pharmaceutical company also raised fears that the drug could lead to a botched execution, citing cases that apparently went awry elsewhere around the country.

McKesson said it wanted nothing to do with executions and accused the state of obtaining vecuronium bromide, a drug used to stop inmates' lungs, under false pretenses.

Dozier's execution was stayed last November at the request of the Nevada Department of Corrections after a judge blocked the state from using cisatracurim in a newly devised and untested three-drug combination to carry out the death penalty. Gonzalez set a hearing in the case for September 10. But the legal challenge filed by Alvogen is only the second of its kind in the USA, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

Last year, a pharmaceutical company sued the state of Arkansas over drugs used in its lethal injections, but was unsuccessful. But the company did not immediately ask to formally join Alvogen's lawsuit.

Sandoz produces the paralytic cisatracurium and the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which are two of the three drugs Nevada had planned to use on Dozier in a first-of-its-kind combination. But the state refused.

Nevada announced last fall that it was preparing to use fentanyl in Dozier's execution.

Assistant Solicitor General Jordan Smith says Nevada never tried to hide its objective. He said drugs ordered by the state prison system are regularly shipped to Las Vegas.


"This whole action is just PR damage control", Smith said of Alvogen.

Midazolam has been used as a replacement for Valium - diazepam - after Nevada's stocks of the sedative expired, a Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) release said.

Alvogen notes that midazolam was used in several "botched" executions, including that of Clayton Lockett in 2014, where Lockett regained consciousness during his execution and died 40 minutes later of a heart attack. Nevada's new execution protocol also calls for the use of fentanyl to slow the inmate's breathing and cisatracurium to stop his breathing.

Bice said 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 its objective - saving and improving lives.

Dozier suspended any appeals of his conviction and sentence, which would make him one of about 10 percent of the 1,477 inmates who gave up appeals and were executed nationwide since 1977, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. Critics say he is seeking state-assisted suicide.

"Life in prison isn't a life", the Army veteran and methamphetamine user and dealer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently. In court hearings and letters, he said there is a limit to how much artwork and exercise a person can do in prison.

Dozier was sentenced to death in 2007 for robbing, killing and dismembering 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller at a Las Vegas motel in 2002.

The lawsuit names the director of Nevada's department of corrections, James Dzurenda, and the state's chief medical officer, Dr Ihsan Azzam, as conspiring to buy the midazolam along with an unidentified doctor who will participate in the execution.

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.

Dozier did, however, let federal public defenders review and challenge the execution protocol drawn up previous year by state medical and prison officials for Nevada's first lethal injection since 2006. A witness testified Dozier used a sledgehammer to break the victim's limbs so the corpse would fit in a plastic storage container.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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