U.S. execution blocked after company objects to use of its drug

Lester Mason
July 12, 2018

Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez scheduled a hearing Wednesday to decide if the execution can take place just hours later.

The first Nevada execution to use the synthetic opioid fentanyl could be stalled thanks to a lawsuit from a pharmaceutical company.

New Jersey-based Alvogen filed documents Tuesday in state court in Las Vegas declaring that Nevada prison officials illegally obtained the sedative midazolam, and demanding it be returned and not used as the first of three drugs in Dozier's execution.

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

A spokeswoman for Nevada Department of Corrections, Brooke Santina, told the Reno Gazette Journal the agency would not comment on the pending litigation.

That case wound up in the Nevada Supreme Court, where the justices unanimously overturned the district judge's ruling in May, according to CNN affiliate KSNV.

New Jersey-based Alvogen had urged the judge to block the use of its sedative midazolam, saying that Nevada illegally obtained the product through "subterfuge" and meant to use it for unapproved purposes.

"The Midazolam has been used in other executions in half a dozen other states with really bad consequences- seriously prolonged executions, with gasping really tortuous effects", says Nancy Hart with Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty. Gonzalez set another hearing for September 10.

"It's concerning that Cardinal Health would sell it to the department of corrections if it knew the drugs would be used in executions", she said.

"It has been at the centre of executions that have gone visibly wrong in every single state in which it has been used", said Maya Foa, the director of the ant-death penalty group Reprieve.

The health care supply company McKesson filed a similar lawsuit in Arkansas previous year, but that challenge was rejected.

Pharmaceutical companies have ethically opposed states using their drugs for capital punishment for years, but this is only the second lawsuit to be filed, the AP reported.


This is the second lawsuit of its kind in the US from a pharmaceutical company, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks data about the death penalty and has criticized the way capital punishment is administered in America.

Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid at the heart of the USA opioid epidemic, has never been used in an execution before, but it is midazolam at the centre of Alvogen's last-minute lawsuit. The state refused, however.

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

Assistant Solicitor General Jordan Smith, who represents the prison system, is expected to argue via video conference from Ely at Wednesday's hearing. He said drugs ordered by the state prison system are regularly shipped to Las Vegas.

Midazolam was substituted in May for expired prison stocks of diazepam, a similar sedative commonly known as Valium.

"I've been very clear about my desire to be executed ... even if suffering is inevitable", he said in a handwritten note to a judge who postponed his execution in November over concerns the untried drug regimen could leave him suffocating, conscious and unable to move. Under Nevada's new execution protocol, the inmate is next given fentanyl and then cisatracurium, one to slow his breathing, the other to stop it.

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.

It was the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada that sued and forced the state to release details about where it obtained its execution drugs.

Dozier, who attempted suicide in the past, has said he prefers execution to life behind bars.

In court hearings and letters, he said there is a limit to how much artwork and exercise a person can do in prison. Miller had come to Nevada to buy ingredients to make meth. The victim's torso was found in a suitcase dumped in a trash bin in Las Vegas, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections.

In the Arizona case, Dozier was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the shooting and mauling of 26-year-old Jasen Greene, whose body was found in 2002 in a shallow grave outside Phoenix.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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